Marquette County Brownfield Authority reaches out to local communities

K.I. SAWYER — The Marquette County Brownfield Authority is working to raise awareness about the tools and resources available to communities when it comes to making improvements to brownfield sites. The authority, along with consulting firm Envirologic, utilized a pair of informative meetings Tuesday to bring its mission to the public and clarify the definition of a brownfield property.

“In many cases, people think of a brownfield as being purely contaminated property, but it can also be property that’s blighted or vacant or obsolete,” Envirologic president Jeff Hawkins said.

The authority is in the process of creating an inventory of those sites that could potentially benefit from its help.

“The state has lists of sites that have known contamination or known releases on them, so we’ve generated a list using that database, but we’ve also utilized a process in which we try to get information out to the community to have them nominate sites that they may see as being perceived brownfields,” Hawkins added.

“We’re asking the public, even if there are sites that they’re aware of, to go out there and nominate those sites so that we can get this inventory compiled,” said the Marquette County Brownfield Authority’s Anne Giroux, who also serves as Marquette County Treasurer.

“The inventory helps identify needs from a standpoint of redevelopment, so it makes people aware of the fact that they don’t have to ignore redevelopment on a property because it has problems or some issues related to it,” said Hawkins. “There are resources that they can use to help level the playing field.”

Those resources include EPA grants that have been secured to help evaluate brownfield properties.

“That’s basically to do things like phase one environmental assessments, lead and asbestos surveys, things that need to be done before a project can really take off,” Giroux added.

The authority helps developers lower some of the prohibitive costs of reclaiming brownfield sites through tax increment financing.

“So you have an initial base taxable value. If they make investment in the property, that typically causes the value of the property to go up and thus the taxable value go up,” Hawkins said. “Well, through a brownfield plan, we can capture that tax increment to help pay for certain eligible activities that may be brownfield related.”

While the Marquette County Brownfield Authority was only created in 2010, it has already supported projects in Negaunee, Ishpeming, Gwinn, and at K.I. Sawyer with around $80,000 in EPA grant funding, $2.5 million in tax increment financing, and it has leveraged over $5.6 million in investment, helping to create 30 new jobs.

For more information on the authority or to nominate a site for consideration, visit Marquette County’s website.