By DAVID GREEN
The City of Morenci closed on three properties last week for the parking lot improvement project, leaving one building yet to go.
The city completed transactions to buy a vacant house on the northeast corner of LaGrange and Orchard streets, the former Grange/community center and some parking lot property behind the Village Inn restaurant.
The parking area has been maintained by the city for years, although it was actually privately-owned property. The two buildings will be demolished in order to widen Orchard Street from LaGrange north to the existing parking lot.
The Dunbar Auction House on North Street has yet to be acquired.
“It’s up to city council to decide if we want to push ahead and get those two buildings down or wait and get all three at once,” said Morenci mayor Keith Pennington.
Due to environmental concerns, the Dunbar property—a former automotive sales and repair business—won’t be purchased until an assessment is completed.
The Lenawee Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) received a $200,000 Brownfield Hazardous Substances Assessment grant through the U.S. EPA in 2009. So far, only Morenci and Blissfield have submitted requests.
Last month the LEDC board granted $32,000 for work at the Dunbar property.
Cheryl Kehres-Dietrich of Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc., from Plymouth, Mich., said assessment work will get underway during the next two weeks. She expects the project will take about three months to complete.
Kehres-Dietrich said the process begins with a Phase I environment site assessment. Records are reviewed and the site is visited to evaluate what is known about the property.
Also at that time building samples are collected to check for asbestos and lead-based paint—an important step in planning for demolition, she said.
Phase I data is examined to determine if the assessment should move on to Phase II in which soil and/or groundwater samples would be taken to evaluate for potential contamination.
Former use of the building as an automotive repair shop could mean petroleum products, solvents and various metals would be found in the soil, Kehres-Dietrich said. Her company will also check for underground storage tanks.
If Phase II is required and contamination is found, a baseline environmental assessment (BEA) will be conducted to document the condition of the property at the time of the sale. This would protect the new owner from liability in regard to previous contamination.
The present owner, Duane Dunbar, would not be responsible for contamination that was in existence when he purchased the building because he made the purchase before June 5, 1995, when the state’s due diligence law went into effect.
The Morenci Fire Department has requested use of the three buildings for training purposes before they are demolished.