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Kerr-McGee redevelopment site meetings planned

 

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group Director of Environmental Programs Lauri Gorton speaks to a crowd at the Memphis Town Community Advisory Group meeting Tuesday at the Columbus Municipal Complex. Greenfield is overseeing the clean-up and redevelopment efforts at the former Kerr-McGee site in north Columbus. Gorton said Greenfield will host a community input meeting to hear the public's ideas for future development at the site at Sim Scott Park on April 5 at 7 p.m.

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group Director of Environmental Programs Lauri Gorton speaks to a crowd at the Memphis Town Community Advisory Group meeting Tuesday at the Columbus Municipal Complex. Greenfield is overseeing the clean-up and redevelopment efforts at the former Kerr-McGee site in north Columbus. Gorton said Greenfield will host a community input meeting to hear the public's ideas for future development at the site at Sim Scott Park on April 5 at 7 p.m. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

 

Isabelle Altman

 

 

The Multistate Trust responsible for handling the clean-up and redevelopment of the former Kerr-McGee property in north Columbus has invited the public to share their ideas about how the site could be put to use in the future. 

 

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group Director of Environmental Programs Lauri Gorton, speaking at a meeting of the Memphis Town Community Advisory Group at the Municipal Complex Tuesday night, promised to hold the first in a series of community meetings at 7 p.m. April 5 at Sim Scott Park. 

 

"What that meeting is about is us listening to the community," Gorton said after Tuesday's meeting. "So that meeting is not designed for us to be giving the community information. That meeting is us asking the community, 'What do you want to see at the site? ... And what don't you want to see?'" 

 

Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation and its successor, Tronox Inc., operated a chemical manufacturing facility at the site near the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and 14th Avenue from 1928 to 2003.  

 

The facility produced railroad cross ties. Since its close, the site has been discovered as the source of environmental contamination -- primarily from creosote -- and sealed off.  

 

Creosote is a chemical used to preserve wood. According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, it can cause skin and eye irritation, stomach pains, liver or kidney problems and possibly cancer.  

 

The Trust manages more than 400 former Kerr-McGee sites in 24 states. It's responsible for using $5.5 billion from the settlement of a federal lawsuit against the company to address high-priority environmental issues at the former sites. Columbus received $68 million for environmental action around its former Kerr-McGee location. 

 

Last year, Greenfield, in conjunction with the city of Columbus and environmental agencies, completed a three-month, $2.8 million project filling a ditch along Seventh Avenue from Maranatha Faith Center to Propst Park. In 2015, it also oversaw the completion of a $1.3 million project filling in a ditch along 14th Avenue and widening the road to build a center turn lane. 

 

Gorton said the April 5 meeting is the "first step" in redeveloping the property. 

 

"The community does not want to be left out of this redevelopment process," she added. "So the first step in that is giving them an opportunity to come to the table and tell us." 

 

Gorton told attendees at Tuesday's CAG meeting that Hernando-based Orion Planning Design, which is also involved in the redevelopment, is currently doing marketing studies to determine what kinds of development could feasibly go on the site. Those marketing studies should be complete in late May, according to OPD partner Robert Barber. 

 

Gorton said once those are complete, Greenfield hopes to have another series of workshops with the community presenting the findings both from the marketing analysis and from the community meetings. 

 

"We can get that site cleaned up, but if the neighborhood is not better when we leave, if you all aren't better when we leave then we have not succeeded in our full mission," Gorton said.

 

 

 

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