Council OKs environmental assessment of site

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Contributing Editor

Although expansion of the city-owned Brown Library won’t happen soon, it was discussed by the Washington City Council during its Aug. 23 meeting.
During its July 26 meeting, the council authorized the purchase of the property owned by Floyd Banks. The purchase price is $115,000, according to an agreement for purchase of sale of real property. The property, formerly known as Pamlico Auto Center, is located at 131 Bridge St.
The library sits between Van Norden Street on the east, West Main Street on the south, West Second Street on the north and Bridge Street on the west.
During the Aug. 23 meeting, City Manager James C. Smith brought up the subject of whether the city should approach other property owners adjacent to the library to see if they are willing to entertain discussions with the city about selling their properties. Mayor Archie Jennings indicated doing so could benefit the city.
“We can find out where we stand,” Jennings said.
Councilman Doug Mercer expressed reservations about approaching those adjacent property owners right now. He suggested the city wait until it has a plan for expanding the library.
Mercer also said a possible merger of Brown Library and Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library could influence any expansion plan for Brown Library. For several years, there’s been talk and a study about merging the two libraries, but there’s been little movement toward a merger.
At the Aug. 23 meeting, the council told city staff to proceed with an environmental assessment of the former Pamlico Auto Center property at a cost of $6,000. Previously, the council authorized spending up to $6,500 for the assessment.
Because a service station was located on the property at one time, there were some concerns about acquiring the property. There were concerns that buying the property could leave the city liable for cleaning up any pollutants such as petroleum hydrocarbons at the site.
“Inasmuch as there was one a service station located on the site we requested the City Attorney’s office review any files at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources … regarding the property,” wrote City Manager James C. Smith in a memorandum which he sent to the mayor and council earlier this summer.
The department’s Underground Storage Tanks Division provided the city documents regarding previous environmental testing and sampling at the property, the memorandum states.
“The laboratory report submitted showed ‘a very low-level of the total petroleum hydrocarbons.’ It appears that most of the samples were obtained from the boundaries of the property as concrete pavement of an old foundation was encountered preventing the taking of samples from certain areas,” the memorandum reads.
The memorandum indicates that St. Clair Trucking removed fuel storage tanks from the property May 15, 1995.
“The executed terms of our offer to purchase the property include a provision that the City may elect to have an environmental assessment performed. The City has until August 30 to make a selection and notify Mr. Banks accordingly. … If the City Council decides not to proceed with an environmental assessment we should require the current owner to execute a proper indemnification agreement with the City should any environmental issues arise in the future and also consider obtaining environmental contamination insurance,” reads the memorandum.