Firm picked for independent audit of Chanute site

Firm picked for independent audit of Chanute site

RANTOUL – The village of Rantoul has selected an engineering firm to conduct an independent environmental audit of the former Chanute Air Force Base.

Village Administrator David Johnston said a committee of department heads selected Burns & McDonnell, of Downers Grove, to study the conditions of the property since the base closed in 1993.

Six companies submitted proposals to do the work.

Rantoul officials will negotiate a price during the first week in January, Johnston said.

The village board will vote on the contract in February. Johnston said the village has received assurances from the Federal Aviation Administration that the FAA and the Illinois Department of Transportation will reimburse the village for the cost of the audit.

Johnston said the audit will give Rantoul an independent evaluation of the former base's environmental conditions. Previous environmental studies have been conducted either by the Air Force or by contractors hired by the Air Force.

Village officials have been concerned about the area since January 2000, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed placing Chanute on the National Priorities List. Nearly seven years later, no decision has yet been made on that proposal.

Sites placed on the list would receive priority for cleanup funding ahead of nonlisted sites. The Air Force so far has opposed placing Chanute on the list.

The audit information also will give the village information it needs before it makes a decision on whether to accept the deeds to 616 acres of land in the heart of the former base – primarily the Rantoul airport's airfield.

Air Force Environmental Coordinator Paul Carroll proposed on June 2 to turn over the deeds to the village, but Rantoul has not accepted them.

The audit also is necessary for the village to qualify for federal and state grants to improve the airport.

Johnston said the airport won't qualify for improvements until the FAA has assurances the property is environmentally clean.

For example, the federal government has already awarded $418,000 to Rantoul to pay toward the cost of a new electrical and lighting system for the airport, including new approach lights and identification lights, according to Rantoul aviation specialist Bill Clayton. The village is also contributing $11,000 toward the project, and the state is providing another $11,000. But Clayton said the federal check won't be issued until FAA concerns over the environment of the airfield are addressed.

Johnston said the village is also seeking between $300,000 and $400,000 in federal and state money to repair a rise in the middle of the airport's north-south runway.

Johnston said he expects Burns & McDonnell to complete its work within the next two months.

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