Last Thursday, October 15, the City of Trinidad staff and Council, along with other officals and members of the community met virtually for a meeting regarding application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to fund the removal of hazardous substances within the theater, such as asbestos.
City Planning Administrator Georgi Ann Clark facilitated the meeting and introduced Stantec Project Consultant Carrie Rackey who explained the contaminants they would need to deal with, and how. The Fox West Theater, Rackey explained, was part of what the EPA considered a “brownfield.”
A brownfield is a “property where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse is complicated by the presence or suspected presence of contamination,” Rackey said. “It can be any property that’s not living up to its potential because there’s contamination. Even dilapidation and vacancy can create perceptions of contamination and be barriers to redevelopment of the property.”
This was why the EPA has offered brownfield grants in order to deal with sites such as these across the nation since the 1990s. Of those grants, there are specifically assessment, cleanup, and, every other year, multipurpose grants which allows for both assessment and cleanup.
“That’s really a competitive program,” said Rackey. “It’s a 10 page narrative application so it takes a lot of time, asks for a lot of detail about conditions in the community and at the property where you’re interested in spending the money.”
The grant isn’t a new one for the town as Trinidad has been able to secure such funds for projects such as the La Puerta redevelopment site. There was also a coalition between the city, Aguilar, and Las Animas County back in 2015 that secured $500,000 for brownfields assessment that has just about been used up as well, allowing the entities to take samples and get an idea of contaminants in our area.
Some of those assessment funds went towards jumping on determining the full history of use of the Fox West Theater site as well as a building materials survey, and Rackey explained this gave their team an idea of how much lead based paints, asbestos, and other hazardous materials might be in the building that would need to be dealt with.
Other areas that were assessed included sites such as the La Puerta site as well as the East Street School building and Pine Street building, next to the Power Credit Union. The company also developed a market analysis for all of Las Animas County to find out feasible reuse for redevelopment projects.
Now, Rackey said with assessments complete, they would be moving into some clean up.
What we plan to do is submit applications to EPA Brownfield Grant Applications,” said Rackey. “One, to essentially get the same kind of funding that you’re using up now which is the Coalition Assessment Grant funding and also a site specific grant to do clean up work at the Fox West Theater.”
While the site specific grant for the Fox West Theater would be to deal with asbestos and lead paint removal, the Coalition Brownfield Assessment Grant would be the same coalition between Trinidad, Aguilar, and Las Animas County and be for properties throughout the county.
Rackey gave kudos to Trinidad for how much support they had gathered for the community, which she said could be a great demonstration of how strongly the community supports the theater’s renovation.
“Back in 2016, the project partners did a community survey to kind of gage the level of support of doing rehab work on the Fox Theater,” said Rackey, “and 89 percent of the 200 respondents said the theater was very important to Trinidad’s future.”
In addition to applying to EPA, earlier this year the city applied to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and secured $108,000 to begin efforts on doing some of the needed theater cleanup, but it would not be enough to cover all abatement that needs to happen, said Rackey.
“We’re going to use a portion of it as the match requirement for the EPA Brownfield Grant,” said Rackey. “We’ll do a portion of the work as soon as possible, and then if the EPA grant is fundend, we’ll be able to use the remainder as a match, as there’s a 20 percent match requirement.”
Funds from the CDPHE grant that’s already secured will allow some cleanup to take place this winter, spanning three to four weeks. The EPA clean up grant will be submitted on October 28 and if awarded, will fund a major cleanup to complete abatement efforts beginning in the Winter of 2020/2021.