Jaffrey seeks advance on grant to knock down W.W. Cross building

The W.W. Cross building, which has been empty for multiple years after a major fire.

The W.W. Cross building, which has been empty for multiple years after a major fire. STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-13-2024 12:05 PM

The Town of Jaffrey has requested an advance on a $2 million federal grant, in hopes of kickstarting the process of tearing down the defunct W.W. Cross building, already heavily damaged by a major fire.

The town has been granted $2 million from the Brownfields Cleanup Grant, which is used to clean up potentially contaminated sites for future redevelopment. Planning and Economic Development Director JoAnne Carr said typically, the town would be given access to the funds on Oct. 1, but she has requested an advance to be available on July 1 in order to start the demolition process. However, the actual tear-down would not happen prior to this winter at the earliest, she estimated.

“One of the goals I had when hired was taking care of the W.W. Cross facility. We’ve gone through many years of assessments, as you know, and finally got the go-ahead to apply for a brownfields cleanup grant; that’s a national competition. We feel like we’ve done very well; only two awards were made in New Hampshire, and we’re one of them,” said Carr. “I know we’ve very anxious to have the building down, just from a safety standpoint, and appearances, moving forward, so I’m asking for an advance on the grant.”

Carr said the additional time would allow the town to put out a request for proposals from environmental professionals for the demolition and cleanup of the former factory, and performing interviews of potential candidates by August.

“If we’re lucky, we can get under contract in August,” Carr said.

Carr said the advance would also allow for required analysis to be done on the building and the soil underneath, which remains an unknown quantity despite the town already doing extensive assessments of potential contaminants on the property not covered by the building. It would also allow the town to move forward with community involvement planning for the future of the property.

“It at least gets us going,” Carr said.

Carr said, optimistically, the building could be down this winter, although cleaning up what’s under the building would have to wait until at least the spring of 2025. A current timeline has the site fully remediated by the end of 2026.

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The board briefly discussed options for cleaning up the site, with Carr noting there are different levels, including a full remediation of the site by removing the soil, which was what she recommended. Other options include taking no action, a select soil removal and partial barrier such as a parking lot or foundation, or an entire barrier over the full property. Carr acknowledged that full removal of the soil was the most-expansive option, and no matter what the board chooses, the town is almost certainly going to be monitoring the area for potential contaminants moving forward.

“That’s pretty expensive,” Select Board Chair Franklin Sterling said of removing the entirety of the site’s soils. “Do we know what’s there?”

Carr said assessments on other parts of the property have been done, and the town has some idea based on the use of the property, but won’t know the precise details of what’s in the soils under the building until it’s removed.

Sterling questioned whether the town could just cap the property and redevelop it for retail, with any potential residential space on the second floor.

Carr said that was an option, but still recommended the most-comprehensive removal, noting the expected redevelopment of the Blake Street parking lot due to a planned bypass over the Contoocook River to connect planned roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey, after that area was capped 20 years or so ago.

“Now, we want to build something there, and have to remediate those soils,” Carr said.

Selectman Andy Lawn said that the town has a good opportunity to “do it right” right now, with access to the federal cleanup grant.

“We don’t want, 20 to 30 years from now, to have shortchanged the next folks. This is our chance,” Lawn said.

Sterling agreed that if a full remediation was achievable within the $2 million cleanup grant funds, that he’d support that direction.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.