Source: https://www.thegardnernews.com, January 16, 2019
By: Andrew Mansfield
The Gardner Redevelopment Authority is seeking additional grant funding for environmental clean-up of the property at 140 South Main St.
The property was home to Bolster Oil Co. several decades ago, believed to be the source of the petroleum-contaminated soil that testing discovered in recent years.
About $400,000 from federal and state sources for redevelopment efforts at the brownfield site has previously been awarded, but ended up not being enough to fully bring the site up to environmental standards.
“When you clean up a site like this, there are a lot of unknowns,” Gardner Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Trevor Beauregard said. “We did what we could do at the time under the circumstances. A lot of these types of sites you just never know.”
Beauregard also serves as the city’s planning director. The Redevelopment Authority is an economic development agency that works on behalf of the city’s interests.
According to an analysis of the site prepared for the city, the site at 140 South Main St. is a 0.22-acre property with two single-story buildings consisting of multi-room office space with an attached garage.
It is abutted by Greenwood Brook to the south and a residential property off Travers Street to the west. An about 13-foot-high retaining wall is on the southeastern part of the property, separating the site from the brook.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, the site was home to Bolster Oil Co., which reportedly distributed petroleum products such as gasoline, fuel oil, kerosene and lubricating oil. The company also used the property for automotive repair and servicing.
In 1986, 11 underground storage tanks and an undisclosed number of above ground storage tanks associated with Bolster were removed from the site.
The site at 140 South Main St. was also reportedly home to a few other businesses following Bolster, including Mailman’s Steam Cleaning in the 1990s, which only used the property for office and storage space for equipment.
An automotive repair garage occupied the site from the early 2000s until 2010.
Beauregard explained that the city took over the property through the tax title process and the Gardner Redevelopment Authority then took ownership.
He said that previous environmental clean-up of the site concluded about two years ago, which included excavating contaminated soil and filling back in the site. The process was overseen by engineering firm Weston & Sampson.
Follow-up testing of samples from groundwater monitoring wells was required, which Beauregard said takes time.
“As we tested we found one of the monitoring wells closest to the wall, closest to the brook, was still above DEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) standards,” he said.
That means the Redevelopment Authority still can’t sell the site, which has prompted the effort to acquire more grant funding this year.
Through the MassDevelopment Brownfield Redevelopment Fund, the Gardner Redevelopment Authority is seeking a grant of up to $350,000, a combination of assessment and clean-up funds, according to Beauregard.
The city’s Economic Development Coordinator Maribel Cruz has worked on the grant application and said the state will announce grant awards in the early spring.
Beauregard said a federal Environmental Protection Agency clean-up grant of up to $200,000 is also being applied for, which would not be announced until later in the year, if it is received.
The idea is to maximize the funding opportunities for the project.
The project goal is to remove the retaining wall and conduct additional contaminated soil excavation at depths near and below the groundwater table, according to the analysis prepared for the city.
For the state grant, if site remediation leads to revenue through the sale of the property and new tax growth, there is a provision for the grant to be repaid over a 30-year period either in whole or in part.
Beauregard said the Redevelopment Authority would likely not make much from selling the property, citing the amount of renovation a new owner would have to be willing to invest in the buildings.
He said the “main goal” is to get the property back on the tax rolls and create new jobs.
“Basically we want to close it out so we can actually sell the property,” he said. “It’s always been a small business. I think it would be a good site for a small business.”