Property underwent an environmental site assessment

At every meeting of the Hannibal Building Commission a list of properties is presented whose status is updated. A place holder on that list for years as been 109 Virginia St. That will change in November after the former St. Elizabeth Hospital complex was dropped from the list at the request of Building Inspector Joey Burnham during the commission’s Oct. 2 meeting. The action was taken because the site has a new owner – the city of Hannibal.

“We legally own the site now,” confirmed City Manager Jeff LaGarce earlier this week.

During the Sept. 19 meeting of the city council, when temporarily taking control of the property was proposed by LaGarce and approved by the council, it was noted that before the city would take ownership the site would first need to undergo and pass a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.

According to the city manager that hurdle has been cleared.

“It was completed and identified no recognized environmental conditions. This means the assessment came back clean,” said LaGarce.

A clean assessment was necessary for the city to seek an Environmental Improvement Energy Resources Authority (EIERA) Grant through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR). If awarded such a grant, a public entity — like the city of Hannibal — may obtain funding up to $200,000 to abate asbestos on public property.

The city is now focused on completing the grant application.

“We’re working with the MoDNR on something called ‘assessment,’ which identifies the locations and specific quantities of asbestos,” said LaGarce. “Once that is fully known, we’ll document it for the EIERA Grant. It’s not a competitive grant, nor is it a cyclical application period. The funds exist. We simply need a complete application identifying the asbestos and that’s what is being developed now.”

Because there is a funding cap attached to the grant, will that amount be sufficient to remove all the asbestos that needs to come out?

“We don’t know, but when the hospital investors (HillTide Partners and Belmont Development Company) asked us to temporarily acquire the building to obtain an EIERA Grant for asbestos removal on public property, we were all aware this grant caps at $200,000,” said LaGarce. “Based on their experience with buildings of this nature, they feel the grant will remove all, or nearly all the asbestos. If it falls a little short, they will remove the rest...

“We are doing everything reasonably possible to help make this a viable reinvestment. If we don’t, we’re looking at a public demolition project in the $800,000 range, which will also create a big ‘hole’ in the neighborhood for many years to come.”

When the grant is awarded the city will likely not be involved in the bidding process, according to LaGarce.

“I believe the MoDNR will spec and bid the project, and handle the physical asbestos removal. That is my understanding in the way they explained it to me. I don’t believe it will be a city-bid project,” he said.

LaGarce wouldn’t speculate as to when the asbestos removal work might occur.

“The MoDNR process has a number of review steps, which involves one or more state boards,” he said. “Our goal is to get the assessment aspect completed, and the MoDNR is working with us on that now.”

The city is seeking the EIERA Grant to lower the cost of rehabilitating the a portion of the property into senior housing. Reducing the project’s cost would enhance the chances that the developers could secure Missouri Housing Development Commission’s (MHDC) tax credits to help pay for the $9.5 million project.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com