AGAWAM – Director of Planning and Community Development Marc Strange understands that residents have heard the phrase before, but he promises that he is working towards a solution for the Games and Lanes property.
Strange released an update regarding the progress on Aug. 5, and he told Reminder Publications that tests are being conducted to understand the definition of the contamination from cleaning solvent left by the former uniform company that occupied the building before it became Games and Lanes.
Agawam has been with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to study the extent of the pollutant in terms of indoor air and groundwater quality. According to Strange, the groundwater outside of the Rocky’s on Springfield Street was tested, and the numbers were high enough to require further examination.
MassDEP is looking into the air quality of the surrounding buildings, such as the Rite Aid, Friendly’s and Rocky’s, to ensure it that contamination is not inside the buildings. Those results have not come back to the town yet, Strange said.
Groundwater testing was requested near the Agawam Motor Lodge to see if the pollutants spread as far as Suffield Street.
“Getting the DEP involved has been huge. They have been willing. This has been a headache for them too, but they’re really willing to help us out,” Strange said. “Everyone is vested. We’re vested; the DEP is vested. Everybody is working together to try and get the contamination defined so we can move forward with it.”
Though it will be a couple of weeks before these results are known, Strange said if they are favorable for the town, they could be in a position to move forward with remediation and redevelopment. This would mean a conversation about transferring the land from the current owner and an interested buyer.
Site Redevelopment Technologies, a company that “specializes in purchasing, cleaning and redeveloping environmentally impaired properties,” according to its website, has expressed intent to purchase the site once the scope of contamination is known, Strange said. The property is currently owned privately, but Strange said the owner is on financial inability status, which means he is no longer “on the hook” to pay for the clean-up.
“It’s still yet to be determined how that transaction goes down, but that’s a discussion we’ll have once we know just how much and how far pollutant has extended … Once we know how far it’s extended and how much it needs to be remediated, then hopefully David Peter [principal of Site Redevelopment Technologies] will know what his expense is then he can price everything accordingly,” Strange said.
Moving forward depends entirely on the results of the contamination tests, Strange said.
“We just want to educate the public on what’s going on. Again, I’m very optimistic and I’m very excited about it. It’s just taking so long and I feel like we’re so close,” he said. “We have someone that wants to buy the property and clean it up, and it would be quick. Everything is in place. Everybody’s ready to go, we just need to know about the contamination.”
The wait to transform the Games and Lanes property also plays a role in a larger picture: the redevelopment of Walnut Street Extension.
Strange said the city has request for proposal for the streetscape improvements with the hope of awarding a contract in September and having a design done by February. Chapter 90 funds will pay for the design-engineering services, he said.
Strange said the Walnut Street Extension project provides a chance for Agawam to create a vibrant community atmosphere.
“I’m thinking someplace where you can go and you can eat and you can walk the streets and do some window-shopping. It’s like a destination. We’ll hopefully create on-street parking. You can just go down there to hang out, sit on a bench and take it all in,” Strange said. “Again, you really need to have an open-minded vision for that, but I think it’s there. The location is great. It’s essentially right at the end of Memorial Avenue. Hopefully with the casino coming, there’s going to be more traffic that gets pushed down this way, and if we can provide a destination for people, I think it’s going to be a home run.”
This “home run” has been a long time coming, and while Strange said he understands the doubt from residents, he is optimistic their waiting will come to an end in the foreseeable future.
“It’s hard for people on the outside to understand why it’s taken so long. It’s been going on since 1989. I totally get it,” he said. “You’re going to hear from me that we’re working on it, and you’ve heard that for 20-something years and I totally appreciate that, but I’m genuinely working on it. It just takes time. The gears of government grind slowly and it’s all dependent on the testing … We’re hopeful it’s going to happen soon.”