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CITY WILLING TO SELL STRETCH OF ROAD

The city is willing to sell to VanDeMark Chemical Co. a short stretch of North Transit Road that has been blocked to traffic for almost two years.

However, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Wednesday if no deal is made, the city will reopen the street.

"We want to sell them the property if we can agree on a price, and if we can't, the city's going to open it up," Tucker said.

Matthew Barmasse, VanDeMark's environmental, health, safety and quality manager, said the company made the city a purchase offer in the past month but hasn't received a response yet.

Tucker said that no negotiations are going on but that he wants to settle the question.

"We want to put this to bed," he told the Common Council at Wednesday's work session.

On March 19, 2003, then-Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan allowed VanDeMark to block about 100 feet of North Transit that bisects the chemical plant.

The city installed concrete blocks in the street, but VanDeMark later erected a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

The move came as U.S. troops invaded Iraq, and the closing was explained as a security move. VanDeMark manufactures phosgene, a highly toxic gas.

Barmasse said, "There's no economic value to that parcel for us. It's just security. We're protecting the residents, too, from what could happen if there were a terrorist attack."

He said a car or truck bomb in the street could do serious damage to the plant, whose buildings are fairly close to the street.

"We think it's a pretty significant problem to open it up, because there's no way to secure that facility," Barmasse said.

He said VanDeMark made its purchase offer, which he said was based on the assessed value of the property, in response to a request from the city. That figure was not available Wednesday night.

Barmasse said the city also expressed an interest in selling some other nearby parcels, which are wooded and steeply sloped down toward nearby Eighteenmile Creek.

"They're basically useless to anyone," Barmasse said. "We picked a couple that abutted the road."

He said the company declined to make an offer for a parcel containing a culvert through which the creek runs, fearing liability if the culvert is ever blocked.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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