Pharos-Tribune

January 5, 2014

City to take on unsold land from commissioners' sale

Study reveals contaminants at former Trelleborg site.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport officials have worked out a deal with Cass County officials to acquire several properties if they’re not sold in the upcoming county commissioners sale Wednesday.

Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said there are 38 properties of the sale’s 122 the city would like to take on if they are not sold. He added the city will not bid on properties at the sale and that the county has agreed to allow the city to take them at no cost other than fees associated with required paperwork.

“Our job is to try to get [the properties] back on the tax rolls,” said Cass County Commissioner Jim Sailors. If the city thinks it can do that, then it should be given the chance, he added.

Franklin said he hopes the city can make the properties it takes on more marketable. Because of the neglectful absentee owners, he said the city is essentially responsible for the properties already through tasks like mowing.

“We have nothing to lose,” Franklin said. “We’re maintaining them anyway.”

Franklin added that a title search on a property costs $95, which is less than it costs the city for one mowing on a neglected property.

But there are many things the city can’t do without owning the properties, Franklin continued — for instance, tearing down a dilapidated shed or clearing dead vegetation.

After acquiring ownership and improving the properties, Franklin said he hopes to promote private ownership through negotiations with future viable owners.

If it turns out the city can’t move a property or if improvements prove too costly, Franklin pointed to a 120-day window in which it can back out of acquiring ownership.

One of the properties on the city’s list is more than just run down and neglected by an absentee owner, however.

The 12-acre site at 1 General St. that Trelleborg formerly operated on and that has accommodated industrial activities for decades was cleared of all its structures and concrete slab in 2012.

An environmental investigation performed by Indianapolis-based Bruce Carter Associates LLC funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant revealed several contaminants on the property.

Joel Markland, director of project development at Bruce Carter Associates, said sampling has confirmed soil and groundwater on the site has been contaminated with petroleum products and solvents.

“It will need a lot more investigation and very likely, a very sizable cleanup,” Markland said.

Franklin said the cleanup will probably take about three years and cost about $5 million. The investigation will have to extend into the neighborhood surrounding the site, he continued, which means acquiring soil samples from residents’ yards and possibly even having devices placed in homes to monitor potential indoor vapor concerns.

An in-depth look at the site’s past and present owners and insurance policies will allow the city to discover who will ultimately be responsible for the cleanup, Franklin continued.

“If there are major costs, it won’t be to the city,” Franklin said, adding that costs would also not fall on nearby property owners should they have to move out of their homes if it is determined their properties have been contaminated.

Markland said it is too early to tell what, if any, health concerns may arise from such contaminants.

“It’s more of a long-term exposure concern,” Markland said. “It’s too early to tell what kind of exposure there is or has been. We don’t even know if those vapors exist at this point.”

The sale will begin at 10 a.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room on the second floor of the Cass County Government Building, 200 Court Park.

All taxes and liens, except for federal liens, have been waived on the properties. Minimum bids range from $30 to $100.

Indianapolis-based SRI Inc.will be conducting the sale. A link to view a list of the properties and their details is available at sri-taxsale.com/county/cass.

When a property is sold, the original owner may redeem it if owed taxes are paid within 120 days. The original owner must also pay to the new owner 10 percent of everything that has been invested in the property since the sale, which usually consists of fees associated with the required paperwork.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com. Follow him: @PharosMAK

If you go: WHAT: Cass County Commissioners Certificate Sale WHEN: 10 a.m. Wednesday WHERE: Commissioners Hearing Room on the second floor of the Cass County Government Building, 200 Court Park. INFO: Visit sri-taxsale.com/county/cass for a list of properties up for sale.