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ACRES Bulletin
February 2021

Showing Success in ACRES!


Taking the Stage at the Roxian Theatre

The historic Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks, PA celebrated a grand reopening on May 10, 2019, the 90th anniversary of the venue's original opening in 1929 as a vaudeville theatre. Vacant since 2003, the Roxian Theatre reopening is ushering in a new era of vibrancy to the downtown business district of this EJ community. The Roxian Theatre offers local musicians and touring acts a venue within the 800 to 1,500 seat range, which is difficult to find in the greater Pittsburgh area.

The North Side Industrial Development Company utilized $11,000 from its Brownfields coalition assessment grant to assist the site’s owner, McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC), in launching the redevelopment of the theatre. Work began in 2012 with a phase I environmental site assessment and asbestos inspection. The MRCDC leveraged the completion of the Roxian to successfully request a $1.9 million grant from PennDOT. This was added to $1.1 million in funds that it has already attracted to the street project. The $3 million first phase will rebuild a redesigned roadway and public rights-of-way from the Chartiers Creek bridge on Linden Street to McDonalds Way and will include new sidewalks, pedestrian amenities, lighting, bike and transit facilities, smart signalization, storm water management features and separated sewer systems, among other things.

Community Benefits

This site is located in a census tract designated as a federal Opportunity Zone, where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for appealing tax incentives. The Roxian Theatre will also impact the development of the public space along Chartiers Creek, with anticipated attention being given to creek access, but more specifically to the connection being worked on to build a creek crossing into an expanded Sheraden Park from downtown McKees Rocks. The MRCDC has been working with the City of Pittsburgh on creating public space along the Chartiers Creek, which is also the municipal line between Pittsburgh and McKees Rocks. To date, over $9,000,000 in leveraged funding has been achieved.



Roxian Theatre
Source of all photos – McKees Rocks Community Development Corp.

Exterior of the Roxian Theatre
Roxian before restoration began

Grand Reopening Night
Grand Reopening Night

News from Headquarters

Call for Ideas open until March 8th

The National Brownfields Training Conference has been rescheduled for September 27-30, 2021 in Oklahoma City! The Call for Ideas is now open; please submit your ideas by March 8th, 2021. We invite all members of the Brownfields Community to share information on all things brownfields: remediation approaches, community engagement, financing, liability, environmental justice and more. Additional information on the conference and submitting session ideas can be found at https://brownfields2021.org/.

Brownfields Conference 2021

Features in ACRES

ACRES 6 Improvements

Team ACRES has continued to add functionality and to address issues on the new ACRES 6. Here are a few improvements...

Look and Feel improvements

Success messages have been updated so they are more noticeable. They appear at the top of ACRES screens whenever a work package, property, or Cooperative Agreement (CA) has been modified by a user.

Quick Search

This function was redesigned so now users designate whether to search by Property or Cooperative Agreement. The new search:
  • Improves response time.
  • Lists both the property ID and property name, or the CA number and CA name, in the results. This is helpful when properties or CAs have multiple occurrences of the same name.
  • Users can search using property ID, CA number, property name or CA name.
  • Results can be viewed using a scroll bar which has been added to allow users to see more results.

Cooperative Agreement Status

The 'open', 'closed' or 'cancelled' CA status was displayed as a green, blue, or striped circle icon next to the CA name on ACRES screens. The status now displays in a separate column which can be sorted – helpful if a user needs to see only open, or only closed, CAs. The change can be found on the EPA user's 'Advanced Search for CA' and 'Review Work Package' screens. For CAR users, the change can be found on the 'Adding a New Property', 'My Properties', 'My Work Packages', 'Open Quarterly Reports' and 'My Cooperative Agreements' screens.

Cooperative Agreement Home page

  • A new column was added to display Leveraged Funding in the Assessment Activities, Cleanup Activities, and Redevelopment Accomplishment sections. This allows users to view the leveraged details for each property in the sections.
  • The IC and EC sections have been updated to display the number of acres each property has that are Ready for Anticipated Use (RAU). Previously only the total number of acres RAU displayed.

Quarterly Reports for RLF Grants

On the Property Specific tab, the CA funding amount fields are now editable so that when grants are associated to many properties, the funding can be divided among the properties for reporting purposes. Previously the CA funding total displayed for each property, not the property funding total. This change allows the CARs to display a more accurate distribution of EPA funding.

RAU Pending

RAU accomplishments now process through the submit & review process like the assessment and cleanup accomplishments. They have a ‘pending’ status which allows properties with Pending RAU to display as such on the Property Home, Regional Status Report, PO Review Work Packages, and PAR screen pages. The Accomplishments table on the PO’s home page accurately identifies the number of pending RAUs for the PO’s. The listings of pending RAUs can help regions to meet regional RAU targets.

Regional Status Report - Reviewer Feedback added

Project Officers (POs) have asked to see their own feedback for work packages that were returned for CAR clarification. The Regional Status Report has a new “View Feedback” button (under the ‘Status’ column) that allows the PO to quickly view their text where applicable. This will be useful when monitoring open work packages, and especially helpful where some time has passed since the clarification was requested.

If you have any questions, problems or suggestions for ways ACRES can make your job more effective, please let us know by contacting the ACRES Help Desk at: acres_help@epa.gov or (703) 284-8212.

Events & Training

Online Training Offered:

Getting Started:
  For Assessment, RLF, Cleanup, and Section 128(a) Recipients just starting to use ACRES, this training will provide instruction on the process for submitting your property data and demonstrate how to use the tools and functions in ACRES. Approximately 90 minutes.

The Next Level:
  For Assessment, RLF, Cleanup, and Section 128(a) Recipients that are familiar with using ACRES, this training will provide instruction on how to make ACRES work for you and your property scenarios, and the answers to some commonly asked questions. Approximately 90 minutes.

  ACRES next Training Dates (2pm EST) details

 
Getting Started- April 13
June 8
The Next Level- March 9
May 11



The struggles we endure today will be the 'good old days' we laugh about tomorrow.

~ Aaron Lauritsen






Frank's Tips

Frank Gardner is the Section Chief of the Brownfields and Sustainable Materials Management Section in Region 1. In this role, he and his staff work extensively with recipients to help them report their activities and successes in ACRES. Frank Gardner

Quarterly Reports in ACRES for RLF Grantees

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how grantees can now do their quarterly reports (QRs) directly in ACRES, resulting in time saved, better data quality, and reduced overall reporting requirements. However, this capability was not extended to RLF cooperative agreements until recently – just in time for the new RLFs awarded in 2020, who had their first quarterly due on January 30.

For new RLF recipients who may not be accustomed to generating hardcopy QRs, adopting the ACRES quarterly report feature is typically pretty easy, especially given the user-friendly architecture of ACRES 6. When adding their first QR in ACRES, the recipient needs to enter the task names and project budget information from their EPA-approved workplan. Fortunately, this information is retained for subsequent QRs and the budget information is used as the basis for automating and calculating the budget table going forward. This results in less work and better accuracy. Once the RLFs start making loans and subgrants over time, another big benefit is that most of the property-specific information will be captured in the QR from data and activities they will have already entered for their properties into ACRES.

For RLF grants awarded in prior years, recipients are in the habit of submitting their QRs the old-fashioned way. People may be reluctant to switch over to a new way of doing things. In addition, when one’s first QR in ACRES is not the first QR for the grant, it can bring up some tricky questions around the budget table which we will explore further. In either case, my advice is for people to take the leap and give it a try, unless perhaps the grant is in its final year and is about to close out.

Let's talk a little more about how we can ease the transition to ACRES for the established RLF grants. First, you will want to double-check that all your ACRES property profile data is up to date. For all properties where you have finalized loans or subgrant agreements, make sure the property is associated to your RLF CA. For your properties where cleanup activities have begun, make sure the cleanup start date is entered and the cleanup funding is added. This is a good time to double-check the accuracy and completeness of leveraged funds and jobs too. After the beginning of each new reporting period, a green ‘Add Quarterly Report’ button will appear on your ACRES Manage Quarterly Reports page - click it to get started!

The first step will be to input the names of your tasks in the Project Progress section and to enter funding in the second column of the budget table (the Initial Approved Budget column) in the Funds Expended section. This information would come from your initial workplan that was approved by EPA at the time your grant was awarded. The third column in the budget table – Current Approved Budget – may be somewhat different and can change over time to reflect the addition of RLF supplemental funding or other budget modifications that may get approved by EPA over the life of the grant. The fourth column of the budget table – Costs Incurred this Quarter – is normally very straightforward. However, if your prior QRs were done outside of ACRES, the best approach here is to put your total costs to date in this column (just this one time) so that the automation and math will work properly in future quarters. If you do it this way for the first one, you will be able to accurately report the quarterly expenses in future quarters, and the Cost Incurred to Date and Total Remaining columns will continue to add up correctly. Similarly, in the program income reporting table, we recommend entering the total program income earned into the Program Income Generated this Quarter field (just this one time), so that the math will work properly during subsequent quarters as well. We recommend that you add a note in the Budget and Overall Project Status narrative field like the following example, so that anybody reading the report will be aware.

Budget and Overall Project Status

Previous quarterly reports were submitted via hard copies. Therefore, values submitted for the current quarter for the budget table and program income are actually total-to-date values, so that the financial tracking features in this platform will work properly going forward. The beginning balance of program income for this quarter was $100,000.00 and additional program income of $20,000.00 was added for this quarter. The correct ending balance to date is $120,000.00.

Many people are working from home these days, so there has never been a better time to get on board with paperless systems and more automated ways to get our work done. We look forward to seeing many more RLF grantees switch over to ACRES for their quarterly reporting now that they can benefit from this time-saving feature, too. By following the approach we have discussed here, we are confident that all our RLF grantees will find that submitting complete and accurate QRs can be a snap.

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