Otsego urges county to do some Rock Tenn cleanup

By: 
Daniel Pepper

With efforts to sell the former Rock Tenn paper mill to developers apparently stalled, Otsego city officials agreed their county commissioner should look for cleanup options.
County commissioner Gale Dugan brought the question up at the city’s Monday, Dec. 4, regular meeting.
“The Brownfield Committee asked me the question as the District 6 commissioner, whether the county should put money into cleaning up loose asbestos at the site,” Dugan said.
Efforts to market the site to developers were having trouble, Dugan said, because of the specific asbestos contamination and more general worries about the needed environmental cleanup at the site to use it for something else.
“Do you want me to pursue extra money on the county basis to clean it up?” Dugan asked city officials.
Mayor Cyndi Trobeck said she thought the commission agreed with that idea.
City commissioner Tom Gilmer said, “I don’t think it’s marketable without that happening.”
Dugan said he agreed.
“It’s a big question mark what would have to be done there environmentally,” he said.
The former site of the paper mill is owned by Allegan County, which took it for back taxes in 2011 from a former developer who stripped valuable materials from the buildings and then let the property revert to the public.
County commissioners have ordered staff to find someone to take the property off the county’s hands by the end of 2017, if possible.
At least one potential buyer discussed the site with county officials this year.
The mill, which made corrugated cardboard, was shut down in 2004 by the Rock Tenn Corporation.
Two brownfield redevelopment grants have been used to survey the site, revealing that asbestos contamination was limited to only the power house.
The grants also funded Phase I and Phase II environmental assessments.
County and city officials have discussed steps, including requiring a cleanup bond worth several million, to be sure a future developer doesn’t try something comparable to the previous one.
With city official’s opinions in hand, Dugan said he’d push for action on the property at the county level.
“My personal opinion is that we need to keep the ball rolling,” he said.

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