ROCK FALLS – The city has learned it will receive a $200,000 federal grant to start the process of removing the troublesome Limestone Building from the riverfront.
The money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be used for environmental assessment work that will be done by Naperville-based Terracon Consulting Engineers and Scientists. The firm also was used to prepare the grant at a cost of $6,000.
The building housed farm equipment manufacturing from 1867 to 1961, and has been vacant since. The city acquired the building in 2009, as part of a larger plan in which the city used EPA brownfields grants to remediate several other riverfront structures from 2005 to 2009.
Assessment, which would include stabilization and debris clearing, would use about $178,000 of the grant funds.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $600,000. The assessment portion is expected to cost about $178,000.
City Administrator Robbin Blackert said the paperwork has been done and the assessment can begin soon. How long it will take to complete is difficult to determine at this point, she said.
“It depends on the condition of the building,” Blackert said. “There will probably be places that are unsafe to get to, but we’ll just take it as it comes.”
The city was recently reminded of what a public safety hazard the building presents. Three teenage boys were arrested on charges of criminal trespass to a building and arson after a fire was set there on April 24. No one was injured, but trespassers have frequented the building over the years.
“We’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to start and make progress on the building,” Blackert said. “This building has been an issue with law inforcement and fire officials for a long time.”
The sheer size and instability of the building has made it virtually impossible to police.
“Public safety is always a primary concern with a vacant property,” Police Chief Mike Kuelper said. “The Limestone Building has been a particular problem with teens who get into the building illegally and don’t realize that there are collapsed floors.”
Rock Falls was one on seven cities to receive a federal EPA assessment or cleanup grant in the round of allocations.