PLYMOUTH - The old Mayfair Garage is gone and Mayor David Merchant is eager to see something new in its place that will enhance Main Street, but first he is hoping to get state funding for an expensive environmental cleanup on the property.
Deputy Commissioner Tim Sullivan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development joined Merchant, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, state Sen. Henri Martin and state Rep. Whit Betts for a tour of the property at 142 Main St. Thursday afternoon.
The town foreclosed on the property last year and demolished the service station earlier this year, using $60,000 in funding from the state’s Municipal Grant Program to do an environmental study of the site.
Merchant recently gave a presentation to Sullivan in Hartford in a bid to get a nearly $1 million grant from the state department to do the actual cleanup.
“This is our number one priority,” he said. “I’ve talked to developers and contractors and we have some good ideas of what we want to do here. Maybe a restaurant but we don’t need any more gas stations or convenience stores. But the first thing is to get all this mess cleaned up.”
The property is right at the entrance to what Merchant termed Terryville’s “Village District.” The town is also planning to demolish 150 Main St., a small abandoned apartment building nearby, and join the two lots.
Sullivan said the next round of the Municipal Grant Program will give out about $5 million but he has about $18 million in requests from municipalities.
“You try to get these grants out the door as fast as you can, but we’re at the mercy of the outcome of the state budget process because we need a new bond authorization,” he said.
If the state budget allocates less than expected for the program, “then we’ll have some much harder decisions to make,” he added.
Esty said she recently had her bill, the Brownfield Reauthorization Act, pass unanimously out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, setting up the legislation for a House floor vote.
She said the program had expired so she wanted to get it reauthorized and loosen the rules to make it easier for federal money to be used for environmental assessment and cleanup for projects like the Mayfair Garage.
The garage had been owned by Frank Fuller Jr., who died in 2015. The property is 0.53 acres bounded by the Pequabuck River and had housed a service station built in 1967. In 2007, gasoline was found to be leaking into the river from an underground storage tank, which had to be cleaned up using federal grant money.
Fuller continued using the site for his vehicle repair business until just a few years ago but fell behind in his property taxes, Merchant said.
The town has hired Tighe & Bond engineering and environmental consulting services to assess the extent of contamination at the site.
Merchant said when he was driving by Thursday morning and saw two 55 gallon drums left at the site “I screeched the brakes and came in here to look at them.”
It turned out they are non-hazardous waste barrels Tighe & Bond is using to dump extra water pulled out of the ground to take samples for lab testing, he said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.