BISBEE — Hoping to stir economic development, brownfield sites in Douglas and Willcox will be the first to move forward with environmental assessments thanks to a $600,000 grant Cochise County received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A coalition between the county, Sierra Vista, Bisbee and Douglas established an effective program to engage the community and created an inventory of sites, stated Amanda Baillie, public information officer, in press release Monday.

The EPA’s Brownfields Assessment Program provides funds to pay for assessments of properties which may have hazardous materials or pollutants and are commercially unattractive to buyers due to such concerns.

The Rivera Building on 10th St. in Douglas and a former auto repair shop in downtown Willcox were nominated and reviewed by a committee made up of community members from across the county. They will be the first properties in the county to go through the assessment process.

The committee is comprised of Bisbee architect Benjamin Lepley; in Douglas Two Flags Computers Lawana Diffe, Long Realty Angelica Garcia and Gadsden Hotel Florencia Lopez; and in Sierra Vista SVAC Melanie Edwards–Barton, KE&G Larry Saunders and Sierra Vista Realty Brad Schneider. County development staff are also involved.

They, with the environmental consulting service Stantec, inventory and prioritize brownfield sites for redevelopment, assess existing site conditions and plan for cleanup and reuse.

Douglas City Manager Jerene Watson looks forward to the possibilities for redeveloping the Rivera Building. “This is a big step toward revitalizing this property. The city is continuing to explore redevelopment options that will benefit the local business community, but we are also willing to work with private sector developers interested in this downtown building.”

In Willcox, a former auto repair shop property was earmarked for development to help boost the regional wine industry, a significant contributor to the county’s economy, as well as to the state through the export of wine grapes grown in the area, explained Baillie.

The county website lists possible brownfield sites as former manufacturing and industrial sites, vacant or underutilized commercial facilities, former gas stations and auto-related businesses, former dry cleaners, old rail yards, truck depots, salvage yards, landfills and illegal dump sites.

Also included are mined-scarred lands and aging buildings with asbestos-containing materials, lead-based paint or other regulated materials.

“The county and the committee continue to review potential sites for nomination which could be transformed from liabilities into community assets,” Baillie stated.

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