City gets OK for study of abandoned gas station

The Mille Lacs County Board has approved the city of Princeton’s request to allow the city to investigate possible environmental hazards at a former gas station property at 903 Ninth Ave. N. in Princeton.

Princeton has been trying to acquire the property, which has an abandoned and dilapidated gas station building. The city’s next planned steps would be to demolish the structure, clear the lot and then sell the property to Habitat for Humanity, according to Princeton Community Development Director Carie Fuhrman.

Fuhrman told the county board at its March 5 meeting that the city is hoping to get the property from the county at little or no cost. The county gained custody of the property through tax forfeiture.

The money to demolish the structure and clean up the lot would come from the remaining funds in the $796,254 Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grant that the city began using in the spring of 2009. The NSP grant was designed to help cities acquire foreclosed/abandoned and rundown properties and either rehab them for resale or tear them down. The city did just that to about a half dozen homes and a three-building apartment complex.

Fuhrman will begin seeking requests for proposals for doing soil borings and testing for asbestos and lead-based paint at the gas station property.

Fuhrman says she doesn’t know if there is any underground pollution at the site, nor if there would be money left in the NSP account after dealing with any aboveground environmental hazards.

The former gas station continues to be an eyesore. The interior is full of debris and trees have grown up along the walls of the structure, which has faded letters on it that say Gas Discount.

County Commissioner Genny Reynolds asked Fuhrman if the city would still finish cleaning up the former gas station site even if it ran out of NSP funds. Fuhrman responded that she would have to talk to the city council about that but indicated that the city might find another source of funding to complete the job.

The county board approved an  environmental investigation and directed county staff to complete the tax forfeiture process and work on a purchase price for the city to acquire the property.