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Local officials endorse sale of chemical plant site

[4/6/04]Both local governing boards are on record endorsing the purchase of a chemical plant site by a new owner.

Monday, Vicksburg officials hired a law firm to represent the city’s interest if the deal with Harcros Chemical to acquire Vicksburg Chemical moves forward.

County supervisors, hearing a plea last week, have voted to direct the board’s attorney, Randy Sherard, to assist the company.

Last week, R. Wilson Montjoy II and Trudy Fisher, attorneys with Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes, told supervisors Harcros plans to buy the Rifle Range Road tract, clean up the contaminated chemical manufacturing site that is part of the tract and put it back into operation, creating 35 to 75 jobs. Also in the Harcros plans are proposals to develop part of the uncontaminated land for house sites, another for recreation and a third part for commercial development.

Vicksburg Chemical filed for bankruptcy in 2002, and in a New York bankruptcy court, the judge declared the Vicksburg Chemical land abandoned and under the control of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Back taxes now amount to $779,560.12, and Montjoy told supervisors Harcros wants relief from that debt. The lawyer said they will need the cooperation of Warren County, the City of Vicksburg, MDEQ, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Tax Commission, State Auditor’s Office, State Attorney General’s Office and the Mississippi Legislature if that quest is to succeed.

Both city and county commitments are open-ended. The supervisors’ resolution says Sherard is to help Harcros’ lawyers any way he can to facilitate the sale. The Mayor and Aldermen agreed to pay the Harris & Geno law firm an hourly rate to represent the city’s interests as negotiations for the sale of the property move forward.

City officials have expressed interest in developing a golf course on part of the property that has not been contaminated. Another development could bring a fifth local casino to the property as well as 232 new homes.

MDEQ has control of the property and the cost of cleaning up the site has been estimated at $8 million. If the sale to Harcros does not go through this year, the property could be put up for sale at the tax sale in October for the unpaid taxes.

If no one bought the property at the tax sale, it would default to the state.