Firm hired to help county apply for environmental clean-up grants

The Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority has hired a consultant to prepare a federal grant application for environmental assessment projects and then work with the county to implement the grant if it is approved.

The authority awarded a contract to Stantec after issuing a request for qualifications from environmental consulting firms.

Over a three-year period, Stantec will provide grant application assistance, project management and assessment implementation for funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency petroleum and hazardous substances brownfields grant program.

There were three respondents to the request for qualifications and of those, “Stantec has been the most responsive” and offers the services at the lowest cost, according to Karen Skepper, executive director of the housing and redevelopment authority.

In fact, the contract comes at no cost to the county, Skepper said.

Stantec will not charge the county to prepare the grant application and its fees for the implementation of the grant, if approved, will be paid for from grant proceeds, she said.

That was not the case of the other two respondents; those firms would have charged the county for making the grant application, Skepper said.

The housing authority was looking for a full-service firm, she said.

This will be the first time the county agency, which includes five members of the Anoka County Board, has sought grants from the EPA.

The impetus to submit an application has come from cities who have requested the county take a lead role in applying for federal dollars for brownfields assessment and clean-up programs, according to Skepper.

They include St. Francis, Columbia Heights and Coon Rapids, which is completing work on its own projects after receiving a brownfields assessment grant from the EPA a few years ago, she said.

“The idea is that the county will be a central repository for the funds,” Skepper said.

Cities won’t have to be part of the county housing and redevelopment authority to be eligible for brownfields dollars, she said.

For example, Coon Rapids has its own housing and redevelopment authority.

The purpose of the brownfields grant is to conduct phase one and phase two environmental assessments at brownfield sites in the county in an effort to spur redevelopment and reuse of these sites, according to Skepper.

The consultant will bring experience and insight to a partnership with the housing and redevelopment authority to refine and implement the grants and explore other grants and brownfields initiatives as money becomes available, Skepper wrote in a report to the HRA.

“The objectives of the HRA may be expanded at a later date to include actual cleanup of individual sites targeted for assessment, depending on future availability of funds,” she wrote.

The EPA is expected to award grants in April or May 2014, Skepper said.

According to the EPA information given to the county housing and redevelopment authority, the brownfields program “is designed to empower states, communities and other stakeholders to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields.

The EPA defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

Stantec, founded in 1956, provides professional consulting in planning, engineering, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, surveying, environmental sciences, project management and project economics.

According to its website, Stantec, headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has more than 13,000 specialists working in over 200 locations.

It has offices in the United States, Canada, India, Caribbean, United Kingdom and the Middle East.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]