Town of Gardnerville officials are one step closer to snatching up an abandoned gas station that could be converted into a formal entrance for the Main Street district.
On Tuesday, town board members unanimously approved an application to Douglas County requesting transfer to the town of the property known as the Eagle Gas Station, located at the S-curve of Highway 395 and Mission Street.
"They've walked away from it and left the signs outside," Town Manager Tom Dallaire said of the station's current condition. "It's become an eyesore again."
"Whatever it can be will be a heck of a lot better than what it is," said board member Lloyd Higuera.
The town first expressed interest in the property last fall, when foreclosure sent it to the steps of the county courthouse.
An Oct. 3 public auction, however, failed to produce a minimum bid of $100,000.
At the time, town board members instructed Dallaire to wait for a tax sale, if possible.
On Tuesday, Dallaire informed the board that the property had gone to auction twice more, with minimum bids of $75,000 and $30,000, respectively, but still had failed to generate a buyer.
Douglas County, owed about $30,000 in back taxes, has since acquired the deed. Under state law, counties can transfer property held in trust to local governments if such an acquisition serves "a public purpose."
If county commissioners approve the town's application, the clerk-treasurer would provide notice to the last known owners and any lien holders, who would have 90 days to redeem the property by paying all back taxes and associated fees. If no one steps forward in redemption, the property would be transferred to the town.
Chief Dep. Treasurer Terry Lundergreen told board members the tax sale would wipe out all liens.
"We thought the county would have the ability to waive the taxes (for the town)," she said. "I believe that should be included in your request."
Lundergreen, who grew up in downtown Gardnerville, recalled filling up her bicycle tires at the same gas station. Unfortunately, she said, the property has become blighted beyond recognition. She encouraged the town to take advantage of the opportunity to clean up the site.
"As sentimental as I am about some of the buildings around here, that is not one of them," she said.
In 2006, the .39-acre parcel was identified in the town's strategic parking plan. Theoretically, it could be connected with several town-owned parcels to the west, forming more than 100 much needed parking spaces downtown.
Although the Eagle Gas parcel itself is small, Dallaire said it could sustain landscaping improvements, some parking and a bathroom.
Of course, there is a catch. Whoever acquires the property assumes liability of the station's underground gas tanks.
The last known owner, Mohammad Ahmad of V-R Property Management in Carson City, told The Record-Courier in October that two soil samples taken in 2004 showed 4-6 feet of contamination around the tanks.
According to Dallaire's report Tuesday night, the tanks have not been tested for at least five years.
"There is considerable liability with the site as contamination was identified in 2004 and the tanks were lined at that time," he wrote. "Testing of those tanks ceased in 2007, and the tanks have not been tested since."
Dallaire estimated that demolition of existing structures, excavation and clean-up would cost $60,000-$70,000.
"If contamination has reached the aquifer and has started going into the water, it will be a lot more expensive," he said.
There are several options to help defray those costs. One is the Nevada Brownfields Program, a federally funded program administered by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
"They do have programs that help communities fix up blighted properties," Dallaire said.
Nevada Department of Transportation grants could also be procured for landscaping improvements.
Perhaps the greatest assistance would be a community development block grant, which the county would have to apply for on behalf of the town.
"There are quite a bit of CDBG funds for clearance, removal of structures, and preparation of the site," said County Planning Manager Candace Stowell.
Dallaire said whatever the funding sources, the project would take several years to complete.
"It's not going to be a fast project," he said. "We don't have a lot of money to throw at it, but we can start applying for grants."
Town board member Linda Slater said that if the town does move forward with the project, it needs to keep the site clean during construction.
"It's what you're going to see when you come into town," she said. "We want something presentable."