Leelanau officials had several potential projects in mind when they first applied for the money. Those included the Norris Elementary School/Grand Traverse Overall Supply commercial laundry Superfund site and the long-vacant Sugar Loaf Ski Resort.
Neither of the projects came together as quickly as expected.
EPA officials said the loans can be complicated, and it’s not unusual for municipalities to take years to spend the money.
“When the program first came out that was very common because it was a difficult program to manage and took a lot of time and effort. I think a lot of grantees underestimated how much time it would take,” said Alan Baumann, a project officer at the EPA. “Now loans are made fairly quickly and often.”
Kathy Egan, the vice chair of the Leelanau County Brownfield Development Authority and planner for Suttons Bay and Bingham townships, said she’s not concerned about spending the money by the 2015 deadline.
“It’s a very complicated process and just the fact that no one has used it and tapped into it yet doesn’t mean there aren’t projects out there,” Egan said. Brownfield cleanup often requires more planning and applications than just applying for the loan, she said.
Leelanau County spent about $55,000 of the grant since 2011 on outreach, marketing and operation. $834,000 of the grant is earmarked for loans.