NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) A nonprofit in Jessamine County is in limbo after it claims that potentially hazardous land formerly owned by the city of Nicholasville is in need of expensive environmental remediation.

Center waiting

The Jessamine County Homeless Coalition began renovating the building at 514 N. Main Street about a year ago. The place has been dormant for years. The center’s executive director, Johnny Templin, says the idea came from God to create a multipurpose space for those affected by substance abuse, domestic violence, and veterans.

“The driving force is me trying to solve problems,” Templin said.

There are currently no 3-point treatment centers in the area. They are planning for 16 male and eight female beds.

This is a lower level of care than a traditional center in the city. It allows us more flexibility, like more people in the building so we can mix and match, Templin said.

Staff will connect customers to wrap social services.

“It will be a 78-bed facility that everyone in the facility will get some sort of treatment. Whether it’s case management or behavioral health,” Templin said.

But after battling a city ordinance against downtown shelters, they’re now struggling to find the money to maintain the building.

They planned to sell a large parcel of land at 506 Broadway and finance the building on Main Street.

We decided it would be too expensive to build new construction on that property. We have decided to put it up for sale to help fund the Center for Hope and Growth because we need the funds and resources to complete this facility. In doing so, we put it up for sale. We have a lease on the property, Reynolds said.

They got an offer well above the market price, but the soil analysis yielded worrying results and the deal fell through.

The problem

The seller has requested a soil analysis. It revealed high levels of lead and arsenic.

Soil normally contains low background levels of heavy metals, but contamination from industrial activities or byproducts can increase them. For reference, safe lead levels would be below 400 PPM, a sample taken tested at 3,360 PPM.

They are looking into allegations that the city of Nicholasville used the site as a landfill.

Mayor Alex Carter says at this time the city does not know where the contamination is coming from and they are still investigating the situation.

“A couple of weeks ago, that was the first time I heard or anyone here at the City of Nicholasville had any information about that property,” Carter said.

LEX 18 contacted the EPA for an explanation, but did not hear back in time for this story. We will update if we do.

What’s next?

There will be a private meeting with city officials and the cabinet for energy and environmental protection in Frankfurt on Friday to discuss next steps.

A full EPA study will need to be done before the removal process can take place. It can cost more than $20,000.

They offer grants for Brownfield projects. However, the application is around $2,500.

“It doesn’t just affect us, it affects the city. It affects the neighbors. It affects the people who live around it,” Reynolds said.

In the meantime, the building and the new building under renovation are at a standstill.

Templin says they need $90,000 to complete it.

Who pays?

The city has not owned the property for more than 70 years. He sold it to the Jessamine County School Board in 1951. They built an elementary school over it. Municipal records confirm this.

Spokesperson Patrice Jones says the district was unaware of high levels of toxic metals or potential health risks related to the land.

When asked why the elementary school was demolished, Jones said, “The school building at that location was no longer needed and was demolished after sitting vacant for several years.”

Templin believes the city should pay.

Carter says the state Cabinet’s Energy and Environmental Protection agency advised the land owner had to apply for the grant.

Before the ground can be remediated, a full study with GeoTech must be done before the toxins can be removed. Carter says he was told it would be $25 per ton of waste. They’re looking at about 110 cubic tons.

“Nothing a local nonprofit operating on less than six months of an operating budget can do at any one time,” said Templin.

He says they spent about $10,000 on the initial soil analysis.

The total process could take months, an average of 18, for grant approval. Templin says they can’t afford to wait that long for funding.

He estimates that they can hold out until January.

Carter says the city is seeking available funding for investigation and, if necessary, repair and is open to working with landlords to find potential solutions that may be available at the state or federal level.

Cleaning of abandoned areas

There are dozens of Brownfield projects across the state. The old Fayette County Courthouse is one example. Most are done in partnership with local aid.

EPA guidelines encourage partnership.

Carter says they want to be wise with taxpayer dollars and handle the situation right.

“I as mayor and the City Commission, City of Nicholasville, want to do what’s right for our citizens,” Carter said.

He says concerned community members should get in touch and help in any way they can.

On Thursday, Governor Beshear announced that Frontier Housing plans to use $1.9 million from the EPA to clean and assess the former Hayswood Hospital building in Maysville for known contamination.

It is among 10 Kentucky communities selected by the EPA to receive more than $7.9 million in cleaning grants in May.

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