Kalispell receives $400,000 grant for property assessment

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The city of Kalispell has received a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to assist property owners begin the redevelopment process, the federal agency announced Friday.

The money will be available to property owners in Kalispell who wish to perform environment assessments on their property to initiate a redevelopment process.

Kalispell Community Development Manager Katharine Thompson said the grant comes at an opportune time for property owners while the city works to refresh the Core Area.

“If a property owner comes to us within the city and says they have a concern, something that may be hindering their ability to redevelop the property, this is an opportunity for the city to provide, at their request, a phase one environmental assessment,” Thompson said.

A phase one assessment compiles information such as the historic use of the property as well as past title holders. If the phase one assessment finds the property or structure could contain potentially hazardous materials such as lead paint or asbestos, the federal grant also will cover a phase two assessment, where samples would be taken in order to determine the next step.

If the two assessments require a cleanup before the property is cleared for redevelopment, Thompson said the city’s revolving loan program offers low-interest loans to property owners.

Before any grant money can be given to property owners, Thompson said the city must first complete the paperwork to receive the grant in full as well as hire a qualified environmental professional to conduct the assessments. Then assessment work can begin, which Thompson believes will gravitate around central Kalispell.

“We do anticipate there will be a number of property owners that will find, in the Core Area, that they are ready to redevelop. But these are funds that will be available all over the city,” she said.

The city applied for the grant in December. Thompson said the grant awards are extremely competitive, with $55.2 million in grant funds allocated to 131 communities across the country.

The environmental assessments won’t be required by the city, which will allocate the money on a first-come, first-served basis, Thompson said. She said property owners looking to redevelop their land or facilities are often concerned about structures with lead-based paint and asbestos, while some former gas stations or laundromat properties need to be checked for hazardous materials.

The city received an identical $400,000 grant in 2009, Thompson said, to initiate redevelopment of Kalispell’s blighted properties. Property owners were able to use the funding for about four years before the 2009 grant dried up. Thompson said it’s hard to determine the average cost of assessments and how long the newest grant will last, since each assessment takes into account the size of building and acreage of the property as well as past property uses.

Thompson said once the final paperwork is done and the environmental professional is on board, the city will begin reaching out to residents and property owners about how to obtain the money.

“We couldn’t be happier about the timing,” Thompson said. “It helps us bring important resources to the community, so this is an exciting and really positive program.”

The EPA on Friday also awarded $200,000 to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to conduct environmental assessments on the Flathead Reservation.

The tribes applied for the grant to help redevelopment of properties containing damaged buildings and abandoned facilities.

Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at slarson@dailyinterlake.com.

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