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Dilapidated Buildings Prompt Discussion

By Staff | Aug 24, 2010

Discussion of what can be done to eliminate dilapidated downtown buildings continues. New to discussions is Mel Pins, administrator of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Brownfield program.

City officials and Chamber of Commerce members met with Pins recently to discuss the former Wards building and the building vacated by Dr. Phelps.

Information distributed by Pins asked the question “What are Brownfields?” The answer: “Brownfields are sites where resale, redevelopment and reuse have been hindered by environmental contamination concerns.” The program purpose is to provide technical and financial resources to help them find answers to environmental questions, and to assist with environmental cleanup planning and implementation to prepare the site for reuse or redevelopment.

Both downtown Emmetsburg buildings, the former Wards building and the building vacated by Dr. Phelps, are both candidates for this program.

“Every site is different,” said Pins. “If somebody wants to step up, we can help with asbestos removal.”

Pins pointed out that he has done previous work in Emmetsburg. The site where the VFW Memorial now stands was a Brownfield program. The Terra Industries building, which was ridden with asbestos, was torn down utilizing cost-share funding from the Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

“There is no state fund to take down old buildings. It would be larger than our highway, road use tax fund,” said Pins. “Most Iowa cities, county seats, small main streets, their buildings are now 100 to 120 years old and they’ve been remodeled three and four times,” said Pins. “And I don’t necessarily believe that the government should come in and take care of everybody’s private property. But this is an ongoing problem in our smaller cities.”

Whose problem is that? It’s the property owners, says Pins.

“Unfortunately, you get to the point where back taxes are owed and the building is structurally unsound,” said Pins. “When that building falls onto your main street, you’ve got a real problem. And then you have to treat the whole thing as asbestos contaminated. So a small problem now grows to a larger problem later.”

Pins stated that if a city, county, area development corporation or a non-profit works on the city’s behalf, if they would want to take ownership and get the site redeveloped, the Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program could help.

“We could help with up to $25,000 cost match for asbestos removal,” said Pins. “It’s a dollar-to-dollar match. That’s what my program can do.”

Pins stated he could not offer a solution, but he said if the city, county or a non-profit wanted to step up, his program could help with asbestos removal but his program cannot help with general removal.

“My program is not here to help the private person,” said Pins. “When a community steps up, it makes a better program.”

He asked if there is a reuse plan in place. Community Developer Steve Heldt noted that three or four things have been discussed.

Pins stated that job creation, increasing the tax base, public green space or return to natural habitat are permissible in this program.

“Since you’re talking downtown, you’re probably going to do something with a tax base,” said Pins. “It would be a value to the community to get rid of an eyesore and then add something of value to the community. But you have got to get started with the dialogue.”

There had been cost estimates for demolition of the former Wards building. Pins noted, the more bidders, the more competitive the bids will become. He also suggested negotiating with the landfill.

“If we’re going to do something, we need to do something soon,” said City Administrator John Bird.

The Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program spells out that a community must have a redevelopment and reuse plan for the site.

A community must also have financial resources that would result in: direct economic redevelopment through resale and reuse of the site to create tax base or job creation; value-added use of direct benefit to the public; or, conversion to greenspace, recreational use or natural habitat restoration.

Dilapidated Buildings Prompt Discussion

By Staff | Aug 24, 2010

Discussion of what can be done to eliminate dilapidated downtown buildings continues. New to discussions is Mel Pins, administrator of the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Brownfield program.

City officials and Chamber of Commerce members met with Pins recently to discuss the former Wards building and the building vacated by Dr. Phelps.

Information distributed by Pins asked the question “What are Brownfields?” The answer: “Brownfields are sites where resale, redevelopment and reuse have been hindered by environmental contamination concerns.” The program purpose is to provide technical and financial resources to help them find answers to environmental questions, and to assist with environmental cleanup planning and implementation to prepare the site for reuse or redevelopment.

Both downtown Emmetsburg buildings, the former Wards building and the building vacated by Dr. Phelps, are both candidates for this program.

“Every site is different,” said Pins. “If somebody wants to step up, we can help with asbestos removal.”

Pins pointed out that he has done previous work in Emmetsburg. The site where the VFW Memorial now stands was a Brownfield program. The Terra Industries building, which was ridden with asbestos, was torn down utilizing cost-share funding from the Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

“There is no state fund to take down old buildings. It would be larger than our highway, road use tax fund,” said Pins. “Most Iowa cities, county seats, small main streets, their buildings are now 100 to 120 years old and they’ve been remodeled three and four times,” said Pins. “And I don’t necessarily believe that the government should come in and take care of everybody’s private property. But this is an ongoing problem in our smaller cities.”

Whose problem is that? It’s the property owners, says Pins.

“Unfortunately, you get to the point where back taxes are owed and the building is structurally unsound,” said Pins. “When that building falls onto your main street, you’ve got a real problem. And then you have to treat the whole thing as asbestos contaminated. So a small problem now grows to a larger problem later.”

Pins stated that if a city, county, area development corporation or a non-profit works on the city’s behalf, if they would want to take ownership and get the site redeveloped, the Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program could help.

“We could help with up to $25,000 cost match for asbestos removal,” said Pins. “It’s a dollar-to-dollar match. That’s what my program can do.”

Pins stated he could not offer a solution, but he said if the city, county or a non-profit wanted to step up, his program could help with asbestos removal but his program cannot help with general removal.

“My program is not here to help the private person,” said Pins. “When a community steps up, it makes a better program.”

He asked if there is a reuse plan in place. Community Developer Steve Heldt noted that three or four things have been discussed.

Pins stated that job creation, increasing the tax base, public green space or return to natural habitat are permissible in this program.

“Since you’re talking downtown, you’re probably going to do something with a tax base,” said Pins. “It would be a value to the community to get rid of an eyesore and then add something of value to the community. But you have got to get started with the dialogue.”

There had been cost estimates for demolition of the former Wards building. Pins noted, the more bidders, the more competitive the bids will become. He also suggested negotiating with the landfill.

“If we’re going to do something, we need to do something soon,” said City Administrator John Bird.

The Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program spells out that a community must have a redevelopment and reuse plan for the site.

A community must also have financial resources that would result in: direct economic redevelopment through resale and reuse of the site to create tax base or job creation; value-added use of direct benefit to the public; or, conversion to greenspace, recreational use or natural habitat restoration.