FERNDALE — The city of Ferndale has been awarded a $60,000 grant from Oakland County for being part of the larger Oakland County Brownfield Coalition that was awarded a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ferndale, along with Farmington Hills, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Pontiac and Southfield, each received the $60,000 grant for working with the OCBC in presenting a report for the larger grant.
The grant money, according to Derek Delacourt, Ferndale community and economic development director, will be used for public and private use in evaluating brownfield sites for redevelopment. Brownfields are abandoned or contaminated properties that can be reused for other purposes.
“We can use this grant to do any site-assessment work in the city, public or private,” Delacourt said. “It is basically for pre-construction, doing baseline assessments and any testing that goes along with that. Doing soil boring and ground water testing, we can determine if and at what level of real contamination on the site exists.”
A similar $1 million grant awarded to OCBC in 2009 produced 124 projects from Royal Oak to Pontiac and Farmington Hills. The projects generated a proposed $300 million in investment and the creation of 1,800 jobs.
“These grants help our communities identify potential development sites for land that sat dormant for years because of industrial contamination,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Reclaiming this land helps our communities and allows for responsible development.”
Brad Hansen, business development representative for Oakland County, said the communities involved with the report presented to the EPA provided information on possible areas of focus they believed to be brownfield sites. The money goes a long way to not only improving environmental factors, but also economic factors.
“All the jobs that have been created from grant money may have happened without the funding, possibly, but we are always looking for money to help the bottom line,” Hansen said. “We are happy to help developers because they help bring jobs to the local area, and the money is just that much more to helping that happen.”
Delacourt said Ferndale will use the grant money to help private developers hire the manpower and tools necessary for contamination evaluation. The city itself will also use money if they have sites they are interested in developing.
“Property owners can come to the city if they want to develop or redevelop property and need to do some site investigation work for potential contamination of the site,” he said. “Applying through us, we can decide if the grant money will be used to help pay completely for the work or offset the developer doing the assessment work. While the city may look into some sites, the most likely scenario, however, is through individual property owners.”
The assessment will look for any contamination of the soil, groundwater or even indoor air. The levels acceptable for residential are different than for industrial development, Delacourt said, and tests can see what types of chemicals may have been used on the site historically and what needs to be done to move forward.
Delacourt said the city was attractive for Oakland County officials to work with because of its desire and willingness to work with existing and new developers. If the new grant can provide results like the previous one in 2009, it can help Ferndale grow.
“The grant money is extremely important because the upfront environmental costs associated with identifying contamination makes some sites more difficult to deal with than green sites in more suburban communities,” Delacourt said. “These funds make sites for existing property owners more palpable for development and levels the playing field and makes developing in the city more attractive.”