Grant sought for asbestos removal on isthmus

ahobbs@theolympian.comDecember 27, 2013 

View of the isthmus in downtown Olympia. (The Olympian file).

STEVE BLOOM — Olympian

Olympia will pursue a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put toward asbestos removal at two abandoned buildings on the downtown isthmus.

Located at 505 and 529 Fourth Ave. W., the city-owned properties are part of a future park envisioned for the strip of land between Capitol Lake and West Bay. Olympia purchased the properties in June for about $3.3 million.

Before moving forward with the Brownfields Cleanup Grant application, the city will seek public feedback beginning Jan. 1. A public meeting will run from 6-7 p.m. Jan. 9 at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW. The grant application will then go before the Olympia City Council for approval on Jan. 14. More information is available at olympiawa.gov/isthmus.

The total asbestos abatement is expected to cost about $550,000, said project engineer Kip Summers. The cost will be supplemented by a $200,000 grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, a recent $100,000 donation from the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, and a Community Development Block Grant worth $50,000.

Grant funding is still needed for demolition and soil cleanup at the site. No timetable has been established for site preparation and park construction. Jerry Reilly of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation estimated the isthmus park could cost between $15 million and $18 million.

The park proposal has been a divisive issue. In August, the Olympia Master Builders objected to the City Council’s decision to purchase the two isthmus properties, and filed a petition with the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board to declare the sale invalid. The city’s purchase had resulted in the defunding of 11 parks projects. Olympia Master Builders argued that the deal created a “de facto amendment” to the city’s comprehensive plan without public participation.

The city and OMB reached a settlement Nov. 6. Under the settlement’s terms, Olympia agreed to provide OMB and the public with clear information about all expenditures and costs related to the isthmus park project.

“This case was never about whether or not there should be a park on the isthmus,” OMB President Jon McKinlay said in a news release. “Instead, what the case was about was the complete lack of transparency and public participation in the city’s decision to divert funds from other parks projects to purchase this property.”

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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