Delaware County commissioners on March 19 voted to allocate $1,800 for asbestos and lead testing at the Strand Theatre.

Delaware County commissioners on March 19 voted to allocate $1,800 for asbestos and lead testing at the Strand Theatre.

The money will come out of the $150,000 the commissioners set aside in October 2010 for renovation of the Strand, that would promote the building's safety and accessibility for the elderly and the disabled.

"Typically, what happens with old buildings is that you find things you don't expect," county economic development director Gus Comstock said of the Strand, which opened at 28 E. Winter St. in April 1916. "We need to do an asbestos and lead test on suspected areas to clear that."

Commissioner Tommy Thompson asked Comstock, "At this point, is there any friable asbestos in the Strand?"

Comstock said, "Generally you'll find asbestos in the pipe coverings and insulation of many older buildings."

"So it's encapsulated?" Thompson asked.

"Yes, and what you don't want is for it to become airborne, which is why we're doing the testing," Comstock said. "There are special techniques used to handle materials contaminated by lead or asbestos."

Comstock said the procedure was required for all projects funded in part by the federal government.

"The testing is designed to keep the contaminated materials out of the waste stream," he said.

County economic development Coordinator Dottie Brown said the initial testing will be unobtrusive. The consulting company Chryatech Inc. will take cotton swab samples at the Strand for analysis at its lab in Hebron.

If asbestos or lead is found, removal of the contaminated material would be done during non-business hours. (The Strand has operated continuously for 96 years and counting.)

The Strand was purchased in 2002 by Ohio Wesleyan University, which helped create the Strand Theatre and Cultural Arts Association, the nonprofit that currently owns the theater.

"Testing for asbestos and lead is a precaution that's necessary," Thompson said. "If we're going to have a usable facility for public use, this needs to be done and will help restore and maintain the old Strand Theatre."

Thompson and Commissioner Ken O'Brien voted for the expenditure; Commissioner Dennis Stapleton was absent.

Also at the meeting, Thompson and O'Brien voted to release to the public the results of an environmental review for $42,900 in Ostrander street improvements, funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant.

The review projected no significant environmental impact.

Releasing the results is a formality that allows the project to get under way, Comstock said.

"I think it's important that whenever we are able to work with one of our smaller communities, we do so," Thompson said, "Our relationship with those smaller communities is important and we need to enhance them."

The money for the Ostrander project comes out of the $153,000 in the CDBG's "Small Cities" fund.