NEW ALBANY —
Years in the making, the city finalized a purchase agreement Tuesday to buy the former Hoosier Panel property off Silver Street so it can build a multiuse recreational facility on the land.
The former industrial site was a source of controversy when the city attempted to buy the land from Jeff Eastridge, owner of Silver Street Property LLC, in 2009. An environmental study ordered by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission on the property revealed soil contamination at the site, and neighbors complained about how Eastridge’s tire-shredding and recycling outfit was operated on the property.
After administration officials answered questions about contamination on the property on Tuesday, the commission voted to buy the land for $1.25 million. The appraisal price, according to Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration, was $1.75 million for the property.
City Councilman and redevelopment member Dan Coffey — who was outspoken in his criticism of Eastridge in 2009 — said the discounted price will allow New Albany to foot any additional environmental cleanup projects on the site if they are needed.
“If there are problems, we’ll get it taken care of,” Coffey said.
Councilman and redevelopment member John Gonder said the administration satisfied his concerns about any contamination issues.
According to the administration, the issues highlighted in the initial environmental study were addressed during a follow-up analysis of the site, Gonder said.
Irving Joshua, president of the redevelopment commission, asked the administration to address those contamination issues during the meeting “so that it would be included in the public record so people didn’t have any misconceptions that it had been [pushed] through without taking that into account,” Gonder said.
Messages left for Shane Gibson — an attorney with the city’s legal department who helped oversee the transaction — hadn’t been returned as of press time Tuesday.
In 2009 under then-Mayor Doug England, the city had offered Eastridge $600,000 for the property in exchange for footing the cleanup costs associated with the site. Administration officials estimated at the time those environmental costs would be as much as $600,000, but that deal never came to fruition. If the property doesn’t require additional cleanups, the city essentially paid the same price for the site had it footed the $600,000 in cleanups and paid another $600,000 for the land in 2009.
The purchase is included in a bond, which could be as much as $19.6 million, for the quality-of-life projects backed by Gahan and approved by the council earlier this year.
The construction of an outdoor aquatic center, new soccer and football fields at Binford Park and the multiuse recreational center will be paid back with tax-increment financing funds. Gonder said the recreational center — which will be used for indoor volleyball, basketball and football — is his favorite of the quality-of-life projects.
The center will be good for the neighborhood “because of it being a really depressed site, and one that it would be a good improvement to get something built” on.
Coffey said the center “will make a huge difference” for the Charlestown Road and Silver Street areas.
“I just think it will do more to get that area going as opposed to some other projects in the past,” he said.