After decades of cleanup, a 60-acre Superfund site that city staff said curtailed improvement along a stretch of north Bozeman is set to break from the title of contaminated grounds. City leaders are looking toward a federal grant to help make up for lost time.

On Monday, Bozeman commissioners will decide whether the city will apply for a $300,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency. The money would help environmentally assess swaths of Bozeman and begin planning for redevelopment.

In a draft application, staff wrote while Bozeman’s core is stable with businesses and life, that’s stopped short in sections of the town.

“I think reimagining this part of the community is important for Bozeman no matter what,” said David Fine, a Bozeman economic development specialist. “This is a very competitive process. I don’t know if we’ll get this grant, but it’s worth trying.”

If the commission approves the grant application, the city’s priority in the effort is the former Idaho Pole Company, which has been in the federal Superfund site program since 1986.

The wood treating facility operated from 1945 to 1997 and straddles Interstate 90 near the north edge of Bozeman. For years, the company used pentachlorophenol, or PCP, a chemical tied to health risks. That contaminated the soil and groundwater throughout the area.

The site’s soil is due to be removed from the National Priorities List in March. The groundwater portion of the effort is likely not far behind that timeline.

The land falls within a part of town city leaders call the Northeast Neighborhood, the main target area for the application. That section is bound by East Baxter Lane and West Griffin Drive to the north, Durston Road to the south, the East Gallatin River to the east and North 19th Avenue to the west.

The portion of town begins roughly a half mile from downtown Bozeman. According to city data, the area has a higher poverty rate compared to the rest of Montana. It also outpaces Bozeman’s overall percent of uninsured people and those who rely on public assistance.

“By targeting these neighborhoods, Bozeman hopes to address the uneven recovery and growth of areas that has left too many American communities behind,” according to the draft application.

Staff wrote the grant could help Bozeman leverage the huge effort to clean up the site and build plans to expand the city’s trail network, open access to a new wetlands preserve and offer room for expanding or transitioning industrial uses where allowed.

“The fact this site is near being delisted and we have the opportunity to reimagine the site and plan properly for the future, that’s exciting to me,” Fine said. “Not just for the site itself, but for how that site integrates into the fabric of the Northeast Neighborhood and the cool and eclectic things that are already happened there.”

The city identified other areas the grant could help. That includes southwestern parts of Bozeman recently blanketed by federal tax incentives as an attempt to trade empty fields between buildings with new infrastructure.

“With massive growth pressures throughout Bozeman, we cannot afford to leave our brownfields vacant and blighted, unavailable to absorb some of the weight,” according to the application.

The decision around whether Bozeman applies for the funding falls on the city’s consent list, which typically gets a vote of approval without debate.

The grant doesn’t require a cash or in-kind match, a rarity in the world of grants. However, if Bozeman does receive the support, the work plan could take a lot of staff time and work from several departments. The planning effort may also lead to proposed projects that, in order to happen, would fall to Bozeman to foot the bill.

Fine said he expects the EPA to notify applicants of the results in late June.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

Katheryn Houghton is the city government and health reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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