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May 22, 2013

Heritage Park project hits snag

City won't receive $400,000 from EPA to decontaminate soil

AMESBURY — The Lower Millyard clean-up efforts hit a significant roadblock yesterday after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Amesbury won’t be awarded its annual grant this year.

The $400,000 EPA grant comprised a major portion of the funding that Mayor Thatcher Kezer had hoped to utilize for the Heritage Park project, specifically to cleanup and decontaminate the soil in the Lower Millyard. Without the funds, Kezer said the city will need to identify alternative sources in order to keep the project on schedule.

“You go for your best option first, and in this case a straight up EPA grant covering the whole cost with one pot of money would’ve been best,” Kezer said. “We didn’t get that, so now we’ve got to go chase some of the other options.”

Chief of Staff Eric Gregoire said one of the main reasons why Amesbury wasn’t awarded the funds is because the amount of money awarded by the EPA statewide was way down compared to last year. To put it into perspective, the EPA awarded $5.9 million in grants to Massachusetts communities last year, but only $1.9 million this year.

With a smaller pot of money to go around, Amesbury didn’t rank high enough on the list to make the cut, Kezer said.

Despite the setback, Kezer said the Heritage Park project isn’t in jeopardy, though the timeline may have to be modified depending on how and when alternative funds can be secured.

Specifically, the project needs to be completed by June 30, 2014 for the city to be able to take full advantage of the $400,000 Parklands Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant. That means the city will have at least the next six months to pull the necessary funds together so that the construction and clean up work can proceed simultaneously next spring.

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