Local developer Buford buys old Rouse property | [8/19/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

A local developer has bought land formerly occupied by the rubber-recycling plant where five people died in an explosion and fire more than four years ago.

The land, the former site of Rouse Polymerics off U.S. 61 South, will be cleared and prepared for new industrial development, said its new owner, B.P. &#8220Pete” Buford of Vicksburg.

&#8220I’m going to develop it and sell it to somebody,” Buford said Friday afternoon, adding that the tract is 16.6 acres and includes the one-story building that housed Rouse’s offices.

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New Mississippi River casino development is proposed for land to the west of the area and Buford cited that prospect as a potential advantage to the site’s location.

Rouse ground and dried scrap rubber for use in tires and other products. It caught on fire while in operation on May 16, 2002. Twelve employees were burned and five died within two weeks. The industrial accident was one of Vicksburg’s worst.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed since, including some that remain pending against companies whose products or services Rouse used.

Some of the suits have been resolved. Rouse and its owner, Michael Rouse, are among those who have been dismissed as defendants.

The year following the accident Rouse filed for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Under Chapter 11 companies may reorganize and try to become profitable again. Following the fire Rouse said it restarted pilot operations using a modified process. Its former facilities have been idle for years, however, and its former property is being sold through a bankruptcy trust.

Rouse’s former site is about 19 acres on Rubber Way, on the west side of U.S. 61 South in Vicksburg south of downtown. Framework and other remnants of the former building remain on the site.

On part of the site’s eastern half is a company called Specialty Elastomer Recovery Inc. That company bought its property from Rouse after Rouse declared bankruptcy.

SERI processes recycled rubber into material for the manufacture of products but spokesmen have said its process is different from Rouse’s. Owners say SERI’s process is nonflammable and self-extinguishing.

To the immediate west of the former Rouse site is a separate company called U.S. Rubber Reclaiming.