Colorado Brownfields Foundation Reviewing Lamar Asbestos Situation


One of the derelict buildings adjacent to the east side city parking lot.



Walker and Silverstein survey Troy Manor south of the County Annex Building.


Decades ago, when asbestos was considered a good way to insulate, not much was known about the health precautions needed when using the substance. Numerous homes and commercial buildings in Lamar were insulated with it, floors, walls, attics and even ceiling tiles. Over the years some of those buildings have become unused and fallen into disrepair, and the asbestos is still there, and it costs a lot to clean it up. The associated costs with asbestos removal and disposal has been a little discussed factor in ridding Lamar of some of the more blighted buildings, and clearing space for new and usable properties.

Some Lamar city staff and council members met Tuesday, April 12, with Mark Walker and Jesse Silverstein from the Colorado Brownfields Foundation in Littleton, Colorado. The Foundation is a non-profit, statewide organization that helps communities overcome environmental obstacles relating to economic development, including asbestos abatement. They are conducting a fact-finding visit to La Junta and Lamar and offering advice to Lamar’s various economic development groups on the best steps needed to conduct an asbestos assessment of local derelict buildings and safely dispose of the materials. At this time, the Lamar landfill is not equipped to handle friable asbestos, but city chief building official, Bobby Ward said the city can take steps to ready the landfill to allow future deposits. The landfill would need to comply with CDPHE regulations, including a GPS reading on the site to pinpoint the asbestos location in the future. Holly is also conducting an assessment of its landfill for friable asbestos disposal. Walker and Silverstein recommended the city prioritize a list of areas, not including just downtown, where projects could start. They suggested taking small steps and begin with one ‘winnable’ project.

Councilman PJ Wilson, who also serves on the city planning and zoning commission, stated that the general cost of asbestos disposal for a moderate sized home or building could run as high as $10,000. “We have a great need in Lamar for either duplexes or moderately priced three bedroom homes for families, something priced around $90-100,000”, he said, explaining how Lamar could benefit from affordable housing. Although eminent domain or condemnation of derelict homes was not mentioned, it was suggested the city not get into the business of buying and flipping houses, but rather act as an intermediary between the homeowner and local banks to offer long-range incentives when selling these types of properties. Shawna Hodge, Lamar Main Street Director agreed, stating, “There are some downtown buildings that are just too costly to renovate, and the asbestos costs are financially tying the owner’s hands from doing anything, including renting.” Councilman Wilson said the Urban Redevelopment Authority is still too new to have any sizeable TIF funds generated, and was doubtful if dollars for demolition could be applied in this case. Mark Walker said there may be a means of developing a revolving loan using interest-only payments to cover costs with asbestos removal. He suggested the city and economic groups inventory initial properties, outline the physical characteristics of each site and focus on a catalyst property. “It could be as simple as a small community park replacing an abandoned house in a residential neighborhood,” he added. Councilman Wilson said the city should explore a private-public partnership that assists the community, the property owner and local construction companies. Ward and the Foundation representatives toured some of the commercial and residential buildings in Lamar that have long been vacant.


Filed Under: BusinesscommunityEconomyHealthLamarPublic Safety


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