Montezuma County and the city of Cortez are proceeding cautiously when it comes to targeting "brownfields" as they try to make the area more attractive to businesses and the community.
Brownfield sites are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a site may be complicated by environmental contamination, community perception and other factors.
Colorado Brownfields Foundation Project Manager Mark Walker presented Montezuma County commissioners with a report on brownfields several months ago, followed by the same presentation before the Cortez City Council. Walker said the next step in the process is the creation of an inventory of potential brownfield sites.
Walker will meet with the Montezuma County Planning Commission on Jan. 24 to choose priority projects before possibly developing an action plan.
Funding the project is still a major hurdle. Options for funding include access to state and Environmental Protection Agency grants in the fall.
"It depends on which way the county wants to go," Walker said, adding that he has spoken to County Administrator Ashton Harrison, who said he does not want to force such projects on property owners.
Walker said the county has come up with a list of more than 50 potential brownfield sites which now must be prioritized, since addressing them all is unfeasible.
Cortez City Manager Shane Hale, the town manager of Dolores and the former town manager of Mancos also met with Walker, who hopes to create a program where towns and cities in the county can work together.
"We are setting the stage to let people know what is available," Walker said, adding some are sites that can be cleaned up and redeveloped for job possibilities.
Hale said now the city is simply identifying properties that could be considered brownfields.
"Where it goes I can't say," Hale said. Some discussions may revolve around who owns the properties and any potential contaminations at the sites.
Hale said the city also will not force anyone to be a part of the program; individual property owners would decide whether they want to work with the city.
Hale said the assessment of properties is not costing the city anything and will provide an "honest look" at what is out there.
Like Walker, Hale said the funds would need to come from somewhere else, such as grants or some other organization outside the city.
"I do not think the city would pay for any cleanup out of the city coffers," the city manager said. "We are just identifying what properties can be brownfields."
Harrison said the Jan. 24 meeting between the planning commission and the Colorado Brownfields Foundation will be similar to the presentation that was given to the commission a few months ago.
After the presentation, the planning commission will take time to look at different methods and standards regarding how to prioritize potential sites, Harrision said. The planning commission will then make a recommendation to the county commission on the next steps.