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Council members upset over North River purchase agreement

The city wants to buy the 29 acres that used to be the old Omni source scrap yard at the corner of Clinton and Fourth Streets.

Posted: Nov. 14, 2017 10:39 PM
Updated: Nov. 15, 2017 5:57 AM

Fort Wayne’s city council will talk about buying the North River property next week.

The city wants to buy the 29 acres that used to be the old Omni Source scrap yard at the corner of Clinton and Fourth Streets.

That’s across the street from Science Central.

Tuesday, city council voted to introduce the purchase agreement for discussion next week.

However many council members don’t like the deal.

The city’s current agreement would let the current owners of the former Omni Source property off the hook for any environmental clean up, leaving the taxpayers the burden for the property.

And right now, the city isn’t releasing how much that could cost.

City councilman Michael Barranda said the city should include an option to be able to use old insurance policies to help with some of the costs.

Barranda, who is also an attorney, said insurance policies wouldn’t have to cover the costs under the current agreement.

The city has had some environmental testing done on the property, but they aren’t making the results public for city council.

Council members said they are also frustrated the administration is just now bringing this to them when the agreement was signed in July.

"It's infuriating because the city has had this contract since July 27. They didn't tell us about it until last Wednesday, it was posted for the public to see last Thursday. That's the first time I could actually lay eyes on something they've had for several months. Now it's really hard to have a working relationship," said councilman Michael Barranda. 

"We don't know how much it's going to take in order to clean the site up. What if it's $20 million? Then the $4 million becomes $24 million, so we don't know. We need to before we can move forward," said councilman Glynn Hines.

"As leaders we need to be sensitive to the perception that it is condescending to ask the public to assume a liability but then not be willing to share with the public what liability they are accepting," said councilman Russ Jehl.

Four council members said Tuesday they won’t support the agreement as it is written.

The city can make changes before next week's meeting but the seller also would also have to approve those changes.

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