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Authority seeking multiple assessments of Gillem

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Local Redevelopment Authority for Fort Gillem is looking for more information about the environment and the infrastructure at the 1,500-acre base.

In the process of closing down the military installation and turning it over to the City of Forest Park to be redeveloped into a mixed-use, light-industrial complex, the LRA is trying to figure out what needed information it doesn't have.

"We need to see if there are gaps in what we know," said Fred Bryant, LRA executive director.

On Tuesday, the Redevelopment Authority is scheduled to hear recommendations on five firms -- "a number of different types of engineering companies," Bryant said -- which have made proposals to do the evaluations and assessments.

The LRA could vote on a contract at the 6 p.m., called meeting, held at Forest Park City Hall. Bryant said the assessment job has been broken down into three parts, and each of the five firms bid on the projects together and separately.

The LRA is looking for the hired firm or firms to give them complete and comprehensive assessments of the wetlands, the Army's environmental remediation, the infrastructure and the demolition costs.

"The wetlands data we have is data that has been provided to us from the Army," Bryant said. "That's the information we'll be looking at to see what we can [independently] validate. We have to look at what the Army has done and see if that's going to be adequate, of if there's additional work needed."

Under military supervision, the military only has to follow its own environmental policies. During the transfer to private hands, which is due by September 2011, the base will be held to stricter federal standards. During the planning phase of the base closures, the LRA had to look at the environmental issues it knew about, and try to work around them in its proposed plan.

Known environmental issues include: 26 buried tanks of petroleum products, 17 waste burial sites and some areas of ground water contamination.

"We have to look at what can be used, what can't," Bryant said.

On the 1,200-acres being turned over to the city's LRA, there are also an unknown number of buildings built with asbestos and lead paint, commonly used material in the past, but now known to be dangerous.

Many of the buildings can't be used, because of current standards and codes, and others wouldn't work with the LRA's redevelopment designs, but will have to be removed more carefully because of the hazardous materials. Bryant said that, right now, the LRA doesn't know what it will cost to demolish the unusable buildings.

After the LRA chooses a company to look at the issues, the evaluations will be due to be completed by the end of October. Bryant said the LRA is currently "a little behind schedule," but expects to catch up soon.