Grayson College recently ceived help in its efforts to revitalize dilapidated property on the outskirts of North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field. The college announced Thursday that it will be the recipient of a $787,500 multipurpose grant through the Environmental Protection Agency to address possible environmental contamination at several buildings at its west campus extension.


The new grant comes as county and regional leaders have turned their attention to the former military base as an asset amid ongoing and future growth in Grayson County.


“Those buildings are old and that space needs revitalization,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said. “The airport is going to grow and we want to make sure we are ready for that growth.”


McMillen said that the college is looking for ways to revitalize several of its buildings at NTRA that have since gone into disuse and disrepair. Among these buildings are former dormitories near the entrance to the airport that date back to the airport’s time as a U.S. Air Force base.


In 2011, the college conducted studies at the buildings that detected the presence of asbestos, a known carcinogen that was used in construction up through the 1970s, and lead, which was once heavily used as a paint component.


This is the first year that the EPA has offered this multipurpose grant, making Grayson College one of the first 13 organizations, and the first in region six, to receive this assistance. Previously, the EPA offered individual grants for remediation and assessment, but this is the first year that these uses have been combined into one grant.


EPA Region 6 Land, Chemicals and Redevelopment Division Director Ronnie Crossland said the agency had more than 400 applications for grant funding this year, with 153 awards worth $65 million given out. Crossland said the grant can be useful for communities as it helps return value to properties that might otherwise be ignored by developers. In some cases, even the fear of contamination could be enough to drive developers away.


“Many established communities, which are like city downtowns, older suburban neighborhoods and rural villages are rich in culture, heritage and social capital but they lack economic opportunity,” he said. “We’ve seen what damaged or abandoned properties can do to a community. Contamination or just the thought of contamination can make development next to impossible. Without redevelopment opportunities, even communities with deep roots become difficult.”


McMillen said the work at the airport site will come in two phases with assessment of the contamination and what can be done with the site first and remediation of any issues second.


“We look forward to doing that work in partnership with the county, the cities and economic development to see what we can do to revitalize this space,” McMillen said.


There were several possible uses for the site once clean up is completed. As college property, GC could use the property, but it could also be redeveloped as a part of a public-private partnership, he said.


“Really, we want to make sure it is put to the best use as possible for this community,” McMillen said.


Michael Hutches is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.