June 20--Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas communities saddled with abandoned and hazardous sites will soon find a boost from two federal grants.
Renewal and economic development will result from the money, officials said Thursday at the Mo-Kan Regional Council, 224 N. Seventh St.
Mo-Kan and the Environmental Protection Agency announced $1.2 million in funding for eligible properties -- or brownfields -- over a 15-county area. Two grants comprise $1 million from EPA's Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund and Cleanup competition and $200,000 from its Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program. The effort will involve teaching skills to about 40 area residents.
Karl Brooks, EPA'sRegion 7 administrator in Lenexa, Kan., termed the competitively-based grants as "tremendous news" for the region.
"Mo-Kan earned those," he said. "Everybody knows revitalizing communities can be a real challenge."
Structures with asbestos and deserted gas stations fall under the heading, Mr. Brooks said, adding "We have solutions for them."
Nearly 70 Downtown properties have been flagged as eligible, with the region containing almost 400 potentially eligible brownfields. "Put on your gloves, roll up your sleeves, and go to work," Mr. Brooks said.
The Missouri Career Center in St. Joseph will be among partners. Janice Spearman, functional leader, said she will await word on when the core technical training can begin.
Tom Bliss, Mo-Kan's executive director, said the redevelopment will provide chances for businesses to relocate and help grow the tax base.
"One of the most significant problems is out-migration," he said of the region. "We know this project will reverse this trend."
Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner R.T. Turner said investors have shied away from locating next to brownfields. "I think this is going to be huge for the inner city and Downtown area," he said.
Among St. Joseph's eligible properties are the Ballinger Building at 620 Edmond St. and the Plymouth Clothing Building at 521 Felix St.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources are also partnering in the process.
Ray Scherer can be reached
Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.
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