Demolition work has resumed at the site of the old Sara Lee plant in West Point after asbestos was found there last year. Kohart Salvage and Surplus, an Ohio-based company, is hauling off rubble from the property. City officials hope to make the site more marketable to potential tenants. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 14, 2014 11:18:37 AM
WEST POINT -- Earlier this week, trucks began arriving at the old Sara Lee plant to haul rubble away.
Kohart Surplus & Salvage, an Ohio-based company, owns the majority of the 70-acre site along Eshman Avenue. The company, which has owned the property since 2010, is sorting out scrap it can sell from the site as it works to rehabilitate the site into something that can marketed for industrial or commercial use.
West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson and Chief Administrative Officer Randy Jones each said while no business has indicated any interest in the site, city officials view that as the long-term goal.
"There's not any immediate need or any buyer in waiting," Robinson said. "It's just in order for it to be in a condition and a position for a tenant to come in and build or put something of an industrial nature there, this mess has to be cleaned up. There's no firm plan for anyone to come in, but that's part of a long range plan."
The Sara Lee plant shut down in 2007. With the closure, more than 1,000 jobs were lost.
Jones said several buildings are still in good enough condition for tenants to move into them and begin business quickly. He added that the demolition and salvage project was a small one for Kolhart, which demolishes large facilities and sells scrap metal.
"(Some of the buildings) would be suitable for several smaller commercial ventures," Jones said. "(The company is) like anybody else. They want communities to do well, and we'd like to see something else go in there."
West Point received Brownfield assessment funding from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality last year. Part of it was used toward assessment of health risks associated with the former Sara Lee site. Asbestos was detected. In order to properly remove it, as well as piles of rubble from the property, Kolhart must keep the piles wet to prevent the hazardous substance from being stirred into the air.
It is unknown how long the process will take, officials say.
Several other West Point sites have also been selected to receive Brownfields assessment funding, including two on East Main Street that used to be gas stations. One is now The Twisted Burger Company. The other is Nix Barber Shop. Owners of both properties have granted site access agreements to MDEQ to evaluate any hazards. There are still tanks that used to hold gas at each site, Jones said.
"Anything that's petroleum-based residual stuff around property is very high on (the Environmental Protection Agency's) list as far as funding for remediation," Jones said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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