HOT SPRINGS – Following Wednesday evening’s notification from the Environmental Protection Agency that FY 2014 brownfield grant funding was not awarded, the City of Hot Springs continues to pursue multiple avenues to expedite the cleanup and removal of debris from the Majestic Hotel fire.
Currently owned by Gary Hassenflu of Park Properties LLC in Kansas City, what is known as the “yellow brick” or oldest portion of the Majestic Hotel succumbed to fire on February 27, 2014, spurring a multi-agency firefighting effort and leaving behind a massive pile of rubble in downtown Hot Springs after portions of the building posing a public safety threat were demolished.
The Hot Springs Board of Directors formally condemned the structure on March 18, 2014, giving the property owner 30 days’` notice to begin property cleanup. The city is preparing to cite Hassenflu under the penalty clause, which allows the judge to issue a fine between $250 and $500 for each day he is in violation of the condemnation ordinance after the 30 days’ notice has expired. Currently, 70 days have passed since the end of the 30-day notice.
In addition, in December 2013 the city issued Hassenflu a failure to secure citation, notifying the owner of failure to comply with the city’s vacant structure code. The judge continued the court date until June 11, when he will have the option to fine Hassenflu $250 per day for each day he allows the remaining portions of the Majestic Hotel to be unsecured.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) accepted the city’s Phase I environmental assessment as complete on April 30, 2014, as part of the city’s participation in its voluntary cleanup program. In the attached Summary, ADEQ confirmed evidence of three “recognized environmental conditions” or REC’s: an above-ground, 10,000 gallon fuel storage tank; a laundry facility; and asbestos-containing materials. The findings qualify the city for possible federal funding assistance for the cleanup.
ADEQ will be required to approve the debris removal, asbestos abatement and demolition site cleanup, which appears to be one of two options at this time: onsite cleanup of the asbestos contaminated demolition debris, or disposal of all the demolition debris in a Class IV landfill.
ADEQ indicated it wanted to wait to proceed with a more detailed Phase II assessment until the results of the city’s brownfield grant funding were known. ADEQ has agreed to do a Phase II comprehensive site assessment in the near future that will include detailed hazardous materials testing and project design for the environmental cleanup of the property.
Pine Bluff was the only Arkansas city that received FY 2014 brownfields funding for EPA Region 6, along with three Texas cities. EPA will conduct a review and assessment of Hot Springs’ application within 60 days so that the city can address any deficiencies for possible future applications. Hot Springs will consider re-applying for the same funding in the future.
In other efforts related to the Majestic Hotel cleanup, the city recently met with EPA officials who discussed opportunities with the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for redevelopment options in the Majestic Hotel and Whittington/Park areas as well as options for securing EPA funding for cleanup costs beyond the Brownfield grant/loan program. U.S. Congressional representatives have continued to be very responsive to the city’s continued contacts. The city is also preparing to apply for $150,000 in General Assembly funds from the Arkansas legislature for cleanup.