The Select Board has authorized $47,000 in funding to investigate options for the Superfund site at 2229 Main Street.
The 46-acre property once hosted Nuclear Metals, Inc., later renamed Starmet, and over decades became contaminated with hazardous materials such as depleted uranium and beryllium, including from the manufacture of Army munitions.
The Starmet property came under Superfund designation in 2001. As the cleanup progressed, the Select Board charged the 2229 Main Street Advisory Task Force with helping figure out if the town should buy the land — something Town Meeting voters authorized the Board to do in 2015.
Once the area is cleaned up, it could potentially support an array of uses, such as municipal or commercial buildings, housing and recreation.
At Monday’s Board meeting, Task Force Chair Paul Boehm said his group’s work on Starmet involves the efforts of legal, safety, environmental and technical advisors. “You can see that this is a multi-headed animal, and we are dependent on outside resources for the breadth of substantial work that is being conducted,” he said.
Some of this due diligence can be funded by other sources, including a Technical Assistance Grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection and pandemic relief funds via the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
“Obviously, this is one of the biggest potential economic development initiatives that the town will face over the next several years, so [ARPA] certainly is an appropriate source of funding” for the task force’s research, Town Manager Kerry Lafleur told the Board.
The funds requested Monday “should take us to the finish line of giving our report to you,” Boehm told the Board. “This takes us to the point [of] you making a decision. It doesn’t involve the legal cost of the actual acquisition.”
Select Board Clerk Mary Hartman asked Boehm about investigating the possibility that the town should consider not buying the site, but rather exerting control over its use via zoning.
Boehm said the task force is looking at the pros and cons of Concord buying the former Starmet site — at an as-yet unknown cost — but also at “alternatives to the town taking ownership,” such as public-private partnerships.
“It’s important to look at the alternative of no action,” Board Chair Henry Dane emphasized before the vote to approve the funds. “Sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make.”
As Boehm has noted, the Environmental Protection Agency will brief the public on the progress of the cleanup in an October 11 presentation at the Town House at 6:30 p.m. On November 9 at 7 p.m., also at the Town House, the task force hosts a forum to gather public comment on the property’s future.