Work at chemical plant site could start in July|[5/26/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2005

One of the developers negotiating to buy the abandoned Vicksburg Chemical property says a $50 million project could be under way there in July.

Paul Bunge, managing member of Silvertip LLC out of Castle Rock, Colo., said the clean-up could take up to three years on the 60-acre site where Vicksburg Chemical operated for nearly 50 years. The plant produced fertilizer, liquid chlorine and was one of few plants to produce a rocket fuel additive, nitrogen tetroxide, until it closed.

“We could be on the site in July. A lot of things have to fall in place for that to happen, but it still looks very doable and possible,” Bunge said.

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Mayor Laurence Leyens said the potential development will be a major improvement in the community’s quality of life and create new jobs.

“It’s going to be a tremendous investment and it’s very exciting,” Leyens said.

Silvertip Project Partners is working with Harcros Chemicals Inc. of Kansas City, Kan., in partnership with Arcadis, a Dutch multinational corporation with U.S. headquarters near Denver, to purchase the site now under the control of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

The parent company of Vicksburg Chemical, Cedar Chemical Corporation based in Memphis, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. At the time, about 65 people worked there.

The company was allowed to abandon the 540-acres between Rifle Range Road and the Mississippi River, but the clean-up of the former chemical plant will cost an estimated $8 million.

The state is spending about $50,000 a month to monitor the soil around the facility that has been contaminated over the years and is considered a health and environmental risk.

Bunge said can begin on the clean part of the property, about 490 acres, as soon as they close on the purchase. Plans for the site include a retail development, residential housing and a golf course.

He said they are also looking at a new industrial development, but that there are no plans to reopen the chemical plant.

“Most, if not all of the current plant site, will be dismantled and moved off site,” he said.

Bunge said they are also considering a hotel development on the site.

He did not say what was left to complete the deal to purchase the property, but said that the city administration has been a big part of their decision to make the investment.

“The city has been very supportive and very helpful. They’ve been very instrumental in the progress with DEQ and the state,” Bunge said.

Vicksburg officials have pushed for state help to redevelop the site and earlier this year sought and won Legislative approval of a bill to use property and sale taxes generated from the development to offset the cost of cleaning the contaminated property.

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.

Warren County supervisors also got a federal judge’s approval to waive $800,000 in delinquent property taxes.