Friday, December 28, 2007

The city must disclose what's in the environmental study

Hat tip to Jeff Pruitt

The city has decided not to exercise the $25,000 option to buy the Omnisource property. This means the commercial negotiations are over and the city now has no legal standing to keep the results of the environmental study secret. We need to know if contamination to the property poses a public health risk.

This also means the city wasted $25,000 when it bought the option in the first place. It would have been even more of a waste if the city actually bought the property. Government should stay out of real estate speculation.


northfortwayne said...


While I generally agree with you, let me add a few more thoughts.

1.) The City may still extend the option, and I believe they are actively working with the property owner to do so. They will use the excuse of "ongoing negotiations" to continue embargoing the report's release.

2.) Fort Wayne Taxpayers paid ~ $50,000 for the testing which to this point only benefits OmniSource. Add this to the $25,000 purchase option cost as well as the additional $12,000 invoice expected for groundwater testing and we'll have paid almost $90,000 benefiting OmniSource directly and still have nothing to show for it. Should the property owner decline to renew/extend the option, the property owner will walk away with all of the benefits, have the testing results paid for by us, plus a tidy sum to boot.

3.) One wonders if the agreement to embargo testing results had anything to do with the sale of OmniSource to Steel Dynamics. Would the company's value have been diminished at the time of the sale had SDI known about a potential environmental exposure?

I'm as much in favor of downtown development as the next guy. And yet, Fort Wayne taxpayers cannot continue assuming the majority of the risk without reaping greater benefits.

Dave MacDonald

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

I believe the city received an extension for no additional cost. It will run until June 2008, so the issue is not dead yet.

Leatherman says that the study will be released at "some point." "Some point" means it could even be after a purchase - pretty ambiguous. I just did a post on this issue over at my blog.

Apparently, the option contained confidentiality clauses. Why have those clauses if OmniSource didn't think there was something to be found?

Tim Zank said...

"Why have those clauses if OmniSource didn't think there was something to be found?"

After all those years in operation, anybody who thinks the land is NOT contaminated is living in a fantasy land. It's simply a matter of HOW badly contaminated and how high the cost to mediate.

Confidentiality clauses are normal in a deal like this during negotiations precisely for the purpose of keeping outside sources (yes, even taxpayers) from "queering" any kind of a deal.
My guess is your form of redress (as taxpayers) is ousting your administration for making foolish decisions or suing to stop the process after both sides have come to terms and the deal made public.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...


It was a rhetorical question. I realize confidentiality clauses are common, and they are common for just the reason you stated.

Doug H. Sec, Lib Pty AC said...

To All,

Every State & local govt should release whatever information to the public it has IF that information will affect the public.

This does NOT make good business sense. However, the government IS NOT a business. It is a tool/servant of the people.

This damn culture of government secrecy is frightening. You don't need to know the details of Harrison Square. You don't need to know the results of the environmental study. You don't need to know who is in Guantanamo Bay. You don't need to know...


Years ago we had another name for a wall of secrecy: The Iron Curtain!