The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has approved 19 cities to receive money in the second year of its Derelict Building Grant program. Scott Flagg of the DNR says the program helps communities with a population of under 5,000 take care of old buildings that they can’t afford to take care of on their own.

“So if they are interested in inspecting the premises for asbestos or other hazardous waste, we provide reimbursement for that. We also provide reimbursement for abating those things,” Flagg says. “And then we have a certain percentage we provide towards either deconstruction — and deconstruction includes bringing down the building correctly — but then also diverting that material form the landfill.”

Not all the buildings are torn down, many are renovated and put back into use. “It works two ways there for us, one, the emphasis of the program is to divert materials from the landfill. So by them renovating that building it is keeping that building in place, updating it and making it safe for owners occupiers and also for the public passing by it. And it can also potentially help revitalize the local economy,” Flagg says.

Asbestos is a cancer-causing material that can be expensive for communities to properly remove, and that often is the reason old buildings are left sitting for years. “That’s been a kind of common link amongst all of them. They run into buildings where they get abandoned and they’ve just been sitting by themselves for a year, two years, maybe even 10 years, and these materials have just kind of been sitting there,” Flagg explains.

“They are looking to properly remove them, and part of that process is abating for asbestos.” The program awarded grants last year after a pilot project.

“We’re appropriated 400-thousand dollars from the Solid Waste Alternative Fund every fiscal year…and then we had a little bit of extra money that was available from our previous round and we took that and applied it to the latest round of applicants. Because last round we funded 15 projects, and this round we funded 19 projects,” Flagg says.

He says they had 37 applications for grants this year. Flagg says if the building is torn down the community is required to divert at least 30-percent of the total weight for the project. So if we have a deconstruction project that costs 100-thousand dollars and the total amount of weight generated for this project is 900 tons of material they will need to divert at least 270 tons to receive the $50,000 reimbursement.

If they go over the 30-percent level for diverting the waste, then every additional 10-percent of material diverted from the landfill, the applicant’s cost share is reduced by five percent.

The DNR says the following projects will receive a total of $491,000 as reimbursement grants:

City of Buffalo – ($11,341) to deconstruct a building and create a green space that will be accessible from the Mississippi River Trail bike path that will be constructed through town and connect the towns of Davenport and Muscatine.

City of Collins – ($16,000) to be split between two projects. One project will complete an asbestos inspection at a abandoned commercial building and the other project will abate asbestos and deconstruct the old fire station. A new building to house the fire department will be built to replace the deconstructed building.

City of Early – ($45,000) to have asbestos removed, a phase I/II assessment to be completed and full deconstruction of the Payless Cashway building that was damaged by a tornado. The city is partnering with the local economic development office to market the site for commercial interests.

City of Emmetsburg – ($3,750) to complete asbestos inspections at 25 designated buildings that the city has secured easements with the building owners. This is part of an even larger project to improve the look of the downtown area.

City of Garnavillo – ($50,000) to deconstruct the old school building and construct a new city hall in its place.

City of Malvern – ($80,000) to partner with the Malvern Area Betterment Association to use funds to complete asbestos inspection, abatement, structural analysis and building renovation, which will offer commercial and residential space.

City of Marcus – ($11,796) to deconstruct one building and renovate two others. Once deconstructed, the building site will become a green space which will house a container to collect recyclables. The two renovated buildings will be transformed into storage for community cardboard collection which will also be recycled.

City of Middletown – ($1,500) to start toward deconstructing the old school building. This round of funding will be used to complete an asbestos inspection for the premises. The city plans on submitting an application for the next grant round to continue the project.

City of Olin -($34,000) to partner with Olin Economic Development on designated renovation tasks that will include inspecting and abating asbestos, and replacing the roof and exterior facades. The building will be marketed for commercial interest.

City of Rockford – ($35,500) to inspect for and abate asbestos and deconstruct an abandoned commercial building, allowing a neighboring business to expand its operation.

City of Ruthven – ($23,000) to deconstruct two buildings in disrepair. Once complete, the city plans on marketing the vacated spaces to interested commercial clients.

City of Sioux Rapids – ($12,585) to deconstruct a former meat locker that poses a health and safety hazard to the community. The site will then be marketed for commercial purposes.

City of Slater – ($66,140) to abate for asbestos and renovate an abandoned building located on Main Street. The project will repair and weatherproof the building shell and prepare the building for sale to a commercial interest.

City of Van Meter – ($17,187) to remove all asbestos and deconstruct a building that is posing a health and safety hazard to the community. Building will be replaced with a new city services building that will house the police station, city hall staff and library.

City of Zearing – ($80,000) to complete structural analysis, asbestos inspection, abatement and renovation activities for three separate buildings. Once complete, a neighboring business intends to create a restaurant and bar in the place of two of these projects, while the other site will be marketed for commercial interests.

Louisa County – ($3,400) to start renovations on the old jail, transforming it into an office building that will house county staff. The funding for this grant will cover an asbestos inspection and structural engineering analysis.

For more information about the grant program, application forms and resources, visit: