Dempster cleanup a multi-part, lengthy process for the City of Beatrice
BEATRICE – Three to four years….and six to ten million dollars. Those are the most recent estimates of what it will take to get rid of the vacant Dempster Manufacturing plant in south Beatrice.
"The EPA has gone through and they have put in barrels a number of different chemicals they found throughout the building. They are working on lining up contractors to come up and haul those away to appropriate landfills." City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer says the city is working on grants for assessing what’s at the facility…working on recovering back taxes….and examining past insurance policies that may have existed that could help recover some costs. City Attorney Taylor Rivera says the plant property is split into five parcels.
"We have ownership of two back taxes purchased and waiting on foreclosure on all but one. We have one...which is the main face that you see everyday that you pass by...the issue with that is we've had issues negotiating a price for that for the past thirty years. People have just been hedging their bets that the city might come and one day buy this from them. They're asking pretty astronomical prices for these back taxes. Our negotiation is how about you donate this to us for a dollar? Because, you can't foreclose without avoiding liability through the EPA."
Tempelmeyer says the city has to own the plant property before it can apply for a Brownfield grant through the EPA to assist with cleanup…for up to $500,000. But, the grant program doesn’t pay for the cost to demolish the plant.
"It will clean up the dirt underneath the building, but you have to tear the building down first, to get to it. Obviously, we have a huge expense in just cleaning up the buildings before we get there. (Rivera).."That brings us back to those attorneys looking through those old liability policies...all those insurance policies, because those, back in the day, would last forever. They've been successful in recovering some money through those and that's kind of where we're at, right now. They're still trying to figure out some of the corporate history, but that's really the big hangup with that."
Taking total ownership of the property, raises the specter of greater liability for the city. The plant’s presence on the EPA’s Superfund sites list could mean money is available in the future for cleanup…..but that could be years away. Tempelmeyer says the reason for using grant funds to assess chemicals that may be present….is that it might be shown that contamination isn’t present everywhere. He says that could reduce the amount of material that has to be shipped away…saving costs.