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RACER officials tell task force they may not have enough money to finish cleaning former GM site

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MASSENA — Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust officials told GM Task Force members Thursday that with $48 million spent so far on the environmental remediation of the former General Motors site, they are uncertain whether they will have enough money to complete the cleanup.

When asked what was left to do on the site, RACER cleanup manager M. Brendan Mullen said, “Once you go underground you can never predict what is going to happen.”

Cleanup at the property began in April 2011 and is slated for completion in 2016.

Should RACER run out of money, task force member Real C. “Frenchie” Coupal said, it was his understanding there is a pool of money set aside for additional or unanticipated expenses.

But Deputy Redevelopment Manager Patricia A. Spitzley said accessing that money isn’t as simple as one might think, noting that representatives of the agency’s other properties also must agree to the expenditures.

Task force member Ronald P. McDougall also noted the $48 million spent so far doesn’t include money spent on the demolition of the former plant building.

“That wasn’t required by the EPA; that was a decision made by the trust,” he said.

Ms. Spitzley said RACER has found that demolition of former plant buildings helps to make the properties more marketable.

“It made sense to start with a clean slab and a clean site,” she said. “It was a decision made by RACER with input from our experts in the field.”

While the property is zoned industrial and is being marketed as an industrial property, task force member Thomas J. Sullivan, executive director of Business Development Corporation for Greater Massena, asked whether the property must be used for industrial purposes.

“Do you see any changes in status for the property? Or is it only industrial?” he asked.

Ms. Spitzley replied, “We are marketing it as an industrial property,” but she noted other uses are possible.

“It wouldn’t be impossible, but it’s unlikely,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager Anne Kelly, who also noted a former GM site in New Jersey is now a golf course. While he said he recognized the site would never be fit for residential use, Mr. Sullivan inquired about a golf course or hotel. “Those are not residential uses,” he said. “I would consider that commerical.”

Mr. Spitzley said that several conceptual uses for the property have been developed and are being used as part of RACER’s marketing efforts. “What we have found as we market properties is it is beneficial to have some sort of plans showing what it could be,” she said.

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