Mayor, Pyers address worries about Lunt deal

GREENFIELD — The mayor and his economic development director say they are confident the town will receive protection against industrial pollution liability for the former Lunt Silversmith property.

“I have no doubt,” said Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director.

This week, Pyers told town councilors, before they approved burrowing $1.5 million to buy the property, that the attorney general will give the town covenant if a property needs to be cleaned up, especially when it sees someone is investing money in the property and plans to create jobs and put the property back on the tax rolls.

“And that’s exactly what we are doing,” he said.

Councilors hesitated to vote the money because they worried that the mayor would go ahead with the purchase, even if the attorney general doesn’t issue the town a covenant.

Mayor William Martin said there is a clause in the contract between the town and Bankruptcy Court, which is handling the sale, that allows the town out of the agreement if it doesn’t receive the protection it is seeking.

The covenant would protect the town from getting sued over contamination that may have happened on the site long before it even thought about buying the property.

Pyers said that while the town has not found a lot of contamination on the site, and has not found any contamination off the site, the state will still want to see whatever it does find there cleaned up.

He said the town has already invested thousands of dollars testing for contamination and on some cleanup of the property, and intends to finish the job once it takes ownership.

The council held a special meeting this week to vote on the $1.5 million. The mayor and Pyers presented the town’s plan to purchase the property on Federal Street, the council heard from three people who showed up to comment, and then councilors discussed the issue before voting to proceed with the purchase.

Edward Peramba of Deerfield Street, a former police detective, said he is concerned that something will go wrong with a bankruptcy sale. The town is buying the property through the Bankruptcy Court.

Martin and Pyers assured him that the town has a contract and neither it nor the court plan to default.

Teresa Conti of Deerfield Street, said she is concerned that there is more contamination than the town knows about and it will spread far beyond the property.

Pyers said nothing alarming has been found on or off the property.

“It’s not Love Canal,” he said.

Pyers said testing will be completed by the end of the month and results will be released.

The town doesn’t plan to go back to the court until April 3.

James Hutchinson of Main Street said he is behind the town’s plan to buy the property, keep the baseball fields intact, and redevelop the acreage, which includes all of the buildings, that abuts Federal Street.

Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg voiced his concerns about contamination, but said he was satisfied with the mayor’s and Pyers’ answers, and by the end of the night he voted to purchase the property.

At-large Councilor Patrick Devlin said he was relieved to hear that the town was required by law to dig 15 feet into the soil to test for contamination, but instead chose to dig 30 to 50 feet.

The mayor and Pyers also promised that the town will continue to monitor the property until it is satisfied that all contamination has been remediated.

Town Council voted $75,000 for the down payment on the property last December.

In 2010, it voted $65,000 for the first of a two-year lease to buy, and in 2011, it voted the second $65,000.

The town has also used thousands of dollars worth of grants to do the testing and some cleanup.

Martin said the town has been and will continue to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency until the property is clean and ready to be developed.

Once the town owns the property, it will begin to market it, said Martin and Pyers.

Pyers said the town will be seeking all sorts of grants to pay for the work.

The town plans to apply for a grant to pay for the demolition of the old factory building on the property — that is where the most contamination is expected to be found.

“There won’t be any risk,” said Pyers. “The contamination will be remediated and the area will be covered with pavement.

Pyers said neighbors’ properties have been tested and no contamination has been found.

The town expects it will cost between $600,000 and $800,000 to clean up the property.

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