July 31, 2014

Elyria
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76°F
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Elyria mayor says cleanup of General Industries site is a priority

ELYRIA — The city is getting some expert advice on how to handle the toxic former General Industries site.

Mayor Holly Brinda has hired environmental attorney Michael McMahon of the Cleveland-based law firm McMahon DeGulis, who will advise the city on how to proceed as well as where to look for potential revenue to pay for the costly remediation. Currently, the contract is just for $2,500 to handle advice and consultation, but Brinda said the opportunity does exist to increase McMahon’s involvement.

Brinda has taken on the task of getting the former General Industries site cleaned up as one of her personal projects. On Monday night, she told City Council she plans to be very aggressive and believes the work can be done in 12 months.

“I’m really committed to fixing this, and I am really hoping at the longest it will take 18 months,” she said.

The city does not own the nearly two-block site at Taylor and Olive streets that was ravaged by fire on July 3, 2008, but Brinda said she believes the city has a moral and ethical duty to make sure the site is returned to productive use.

Currently, the lot has weeds growing through cracks in the concrete and a burned-out, asbestos-contaminated shell of a building on it.

It is owned by John Peshek, who prior to the fire operated the manufacturing company J-Tech Inc. inside the building.

Nearby there are several businesses, including Parker Hannifin, Wolfenden Industries on Olive Street and Phoenix Mold & Die on Taylor Street. Brinda said she has been in contact with a number of businesses, thanking them for their patience in the more than four years since the building burned.

“There is no doubt the property in its current state is a detriment to the surrounding businesses, community and immediate area,” she said. “The city was right to work through the process and work with the existing owner. But it doesn’t appear right now he has the resources to remediate the property, and it has become apparent that we need a different approach.”

Brinda said the city could use state and federal dollars to pay for the cleanup as well as look for additional assistance from the Ohio or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Law Director Scott Serazin has been working on the issue since taking office. But his progress has been limited. The city condemned the property soon after the fire.

“But the problem is there is an owner who does not have the resources to take it down, and we don’t know what the remediation issues will be,” Serazin said.

If the city can finally force a cleanup of the area, which is zoned manufacturing, Brinda said she would like to see another manufacturing company move in.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.