The city council approved a request to apply for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in the amount of $200,000 to clean up the former Maskers property located at 45 Front Street.

A recently completed Phase II environmental site assessment by Ransom Consulting determined there were low-level contaminants spread throughout the soils located on the property, as well as asbestos containing materials and lead paint in the former Maskers Theater building and a storage building.

In the past, the property was used as the city's solid waste dump; a bulk fuel facility; for working waterfront activities; and by the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad.

Contaminants found in the soils included coal, low concentrations of metals and low concentrations of petroleum products. City Manager Joseph Slocum noted there was no indication any of the contaminants were leeching into the water table and they only posed a risk if the soils were in direct contact with someone's skin for a prolonged period of time.

In addition to testing the soils on the property, Ransom Consulting also completed a hazardous materials inventory for the former Maskers Theater building and a storage building. That inventory determined there asbestos containing materials in the buildings, as well as lead paint.

Those issues would have to be addressed before the buildings could be demolished.

Belfast's Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge told councilors during a special meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 14, the estimated cost to clean up the property was about $230,000. The city can apply for a grant from the U.S. EPA for up to $200,000 with a required match of 20 percent, or $40,000.

The application to apply for the clean up grant is due by Jan. 22, Kittredge said.

Kittredge said by cleaning up the property, the intent is that the parcel will be more valuable and more attractive to a potential developer.

Slocum recommended the city council approve Kittredge's request to apply for the clean up grant and stated the city would be hard pressed to find the funds to do the necessary remediation on the property without the availability of federal funding.

He also said the city could take money from its surplus funds to provide the $40,000 match. Kittredge pointed out that while he was asking for a cash match to secure the grant, there may be opportunities in the future for in-kind contributions that would count towards the match.

Kittredge explained if the city's Public Works Department is used to remove soils on the property, the EPA would reimburse the city for those costs, and it could count as an in-kind contribution.

Councilor Mike Hurley asked Kittredge for a time line of how quickly work could begin to clean up the property. Kittredge said the city would submit its application by the Jan. 22 deadline and would be notified of whether it will receive the funding by June. He said the city could then bid out the project over the summer and the EPA would make the funds available for the clean up by October 2014.

Mayor Walter Ashe then pointed out that under the estimated time line, the best case scenario is that the city would not have the property cleaned up for at least another year.

Councilors authorized Kittredge to apply for the $200,000 clean up grant and to provide matching funds of $40,000 unanimously with Councilor Roger Lee absent.