Vicksburg Chemical bill gone to Barbour|[3/17/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005

A bill to provide a financial incentive to redevelop and clean up the abandoned Vicksburg Chemical property site has been approved by the House and Senate and sent to the governor for his signature.

The legislation written by Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, creates a Redevelopment Project Incentive Fund using property and sale taxes generated from the property. Once approved, the funds could be used to offset the cost of cleaning the contaminated property as part of a proposed project.

“It’s a great economic opportunity for the City of Vicksburg and Warren County,” Flaggs said.

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City officials who have pushed for state funding to help clean up the plant said they are excited about the prospect of reopening the plant, construction of new residential housing and development of a riverside golf course. All three are part of proposals for the site.

“We now have a good, solid chance of getting a development on that property and getting that property cleaned up,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

Leyens said two developers have been looking at the site, but both proposals have come up short financially because of the estimated $8 million cleanup of the 40-acre site where the vacant chemical property sits.

Those developers have been in negotiations with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to take over the site, but talks have stalled over the cleanup costs.

Vicksburg Chemical shut down in 2002 after its parent company, Cedar Chemical, filed for bankruptcy. In the process of the bankruptcy, a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York allowed the company to abandon the site to the ownership of the MDEQ.

The state has since been responsible for both the contaminated property and the adjacent 540 acres of undeveloped property along Rifle Range and Warrenton roads.

Language added to the bill by a Senate committee limits use of the funds to non-gaming developments. Two unrelated casino developments have been proposed on properties south of the Vicksburg Chemical site.