County officials have begun efforts to make a Brownstown industrial site that hasn’t been used in more than 15 years more marketable.
The 32.63-acre site on the west side of the county seat housed Kieffer Paper Mills from 1899 until that company closed in the late 1990s.
The site at 1220 W. Spring St. was purchased by Unicell Paper Mills Inc. of Lake Mary, Florida, in December 2003. Company officials announced plans to reopen the plant and expand it at that time.
Those plans were never fulfilled, and in November 2012, that company sold the equipment to other paper makers and the buildings for scrap, leaving building foundations, the remains of a wastewater treatment plant and several lagoons.
Although Unicell is listed as the site’s owner, there is an outstanding property tax bill of $81,469.29 at this time.
The company’s administration was dissolved in September 2013, according to Florida’s Division of Corporations.
County efforts to sell the property in two tax sales, the most recent in October 2014, were unsuccessful.
Commissioner Matt Reedy said commissioners have obtained a certificate allowing them to sell the property for less than the property taxes owed, but he thinks it might sell more quickly if one issue can be resolved. That issue involves the lagoons and the possibility they might contain PCBs, he said.
During Tuesday night’s commissioners meeting, county highway Superintendent Warren Martin said he had discussed that and other potential environmental issues with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and was told records indicate that the PCB issue was resolved years ago by officials with Kieffer Paper Mills.
“If that’s the case, I think we can just drain the lagoons and fill them in,” Martin said.
Reedy said if that happens, commissioners might try to sell the property at this year’s property tax sale.
“If we can get it cleared by IDEM,” he added.
John Nolting, president of the Brownstown Town Council, said he feels anything that can be done to make the property more marketable would be good. He said the town does not have an interest in or use for the property.
Martin said he plans to sit down with IDEM officials and discuss what needs to be done to get the property ready for a potential buyer.
He said that at one point he and other county officials discussed the possibility of the county keeping the property for use by the highway department. He added that possibility just didn’t seem very feasible, especially since the present highway garage is located on the east side of Brownstown.
Martin told commissioners that county workers have mowed the front of the property in an effort to make it look a little better.