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City submits grant application for Limestone Building in Rock Falls

Total cost of project estimated to be $600,000

Rock Falls officials say the Limestone Building along the city's riverfront is not 
salvageable and are seeking a federal grant to pay for an environmental assessment 
that would precede demolition.
Rock Falls officials say the Limestone Building along the city's riverfront is not salvageable and are seeking a federal grant to pay for an environmental assessment that would precede demolition.

ROCK FALLS – The city will submit its application today for a federal Environmental Protection Agency grant that would set the stage to remove what officials say is the last barrier to riverfront development.

A public informational session about the $200,000 assessment grant for the Limestone Building was held at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting of the City Council. Only a handful of citizens attended the grant meeting, which lasted about 25 minutes.

City Administrator Robbin Blackert reviewed the history of the building at 201 W. First St. It was a manufacturing site for farm equipment from 1867 to 1961. The city took possession of the building in 2009, as part of a larger plan in which the city used EPA brownfields grants to remediate several other riverfront buildings from 2005 to 2009.

"This building has a split personality," Blackert said. "You see all of these beautiful photos of what it once looked like, and then you see the disaster it has become."

The assessment grant, with a 3-year life cycle, would be used for five purposes: assessment; cleanup planning; to identify and monitor the danger to at-risk segments of the population; community outreach; and program implementation.

Assessment, which would include stabilization and debris clearing, would eat up about $178,000 of the grant funds.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $600,000. The estimate is generous, Blackert said, because of all the unknowns involved.

"This is a big project, and the $200,000 grant would get the process started," she said. "The building isn't stable enough to do testing and assessment. We couldn't do this without help from the EPA."

There is asbestos in the building and an old paint room is a cause for concern.

"I'm speaking as a citizen and a council member," Alderman Glen Kuhlemier said. "I worked in this building, and solvents, paints, and lubricants that would no longer be appropriate were used then."

If the city gets the assessment grant, officials have discussed the possibility of getting a revolving loan from the Illinois EPA to pay for the remaining $400,000.

During the public meeting, Sandra Ramirez of Rock Falls asked what would happen to the stones when the building comes down.

The grant stipulates that the city must try to repurpose whatever it can during the process, Blackert said.

"We're looking to recycle stones for retaining walls, etc., and historically, we want to preserve whatever we can," she said.

The grant submitted today is a difficult one to get, but city officials said they believe their chances were enhanced by hiring Terracon Consulting Engineers and Scientists to prepare the grant at a cost of $6,000.

The firm has worked with the city on other projects. Although only two cities in Illinois received this EPA assessment grant last year, Terracon worked on both applications.

The city expects to get a decision on its grant application sometime in March.

Next meeting

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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