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RACINE – Nearly $900,000 in grant money recently awarded to Racine will aid in cleaning up brownfield sites, riverfront redevelopment and will provide training opportunities for unemployed and underemployed, city officials say.

Racine is one of 19 communities in 17 states and territories that will benefit from about $3.6 million in Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grants awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a press release the city sent Friday.

The Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps will use the approximately $200,000 in funds to help operate an environmental training program preparing 100 young adults in Racine with the skills and credentials needed to clean up and restore brownfield sites.

According to the release, those participating will receive training and certifications for a wide range of occupations including: lead and asbestos removal; hazardous waste operations; licensed commercial truck and bus driving; wastewater treatment; storm water management; ecosystem restoration; brownfields assessment; disaster response; and other related environmental health jobs.

The city’s key partners in the program include: the Racine County Workforce Development Center; Racine County Economic Development Corporation; the First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship Program of the Human Capital Development Corporation; Gateway Technical College; and Racine Vocational Ministry.

RootWorks redevelopment

The city has also been awarded an EPA grant for continued planning for the RootWorks Redevelopment Area. Vandewalle and Associates has been contracted by the city to implement planning associated with the $200,000 award.

RootWorks calls for transforming the former Root River industrial corridor into a modern live-work area that will include residential areas, a boardwalk and a 1.75-mile-long recreation area.

The original planning RootWorks effort focused on 325 acres in the historical industrial center of the city. The new award will focus on more detailed planning for specific sites located within the RootWorks boundaries.

According to the release, the grant will help promote principals of the RootWorks area, including creating a sense of place, stimulating economic growth, allowing public access and improving water quality.

Brownfield cleanup funds

The EPA has also awarded an additional $500,000 in funding for the city’s brownfield revolving loan fund. The fund is used to finance low-interest loans with flexible terms to help with remediation associated with petroleum and hazardous material cleanup on brownfield sites within the city.

The addition of the $500,000 award brings the total funded over the years by the EPA to $1.5 million, the release stated. The city has previously used revolving loan funds to help finance cleanup activities at the former Walker Manufacturing site.

“These kinds of funding awards show that together so much more is possible,” Mayor John Dickert said in the release. “With these grants, we have the ability to move forward from identifying problem areas, training and employing people to remediate them, to ultimately restoring those areas to useable land.”

Dickert said the city’s partnerships and collaborations, such as with RCEDC, will help to “deploy the funding efficiently and effectively.”

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