Other options weighed for school offices site Contamination issue is one deterrent, commissioner says

October 16, 1995|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners may not buy the former Telemecanique building after all. The commissioners, who confirmed in July that they planned to buy the former factory on Bethel Road in Reese for $4.2 million, have beguOne commissioner says he still favors buying the former electrical components manufacturing factory, another is ready to back off because of environmental concerns and a third says his vote will depend on the terms of the sale contract.

The commissioners are expected to discuss alternatives to the 25-acre Telemecanique site with county school officials at a closed meeting this morning.

"I'm backing off [the purchase] if they can't indemnify us," said Commissioner Richard T. Yates. He said the property's owner, Development Co. of America, offered to indemnify the county against environmental problems stemming from past contamination for several years. Mr. Yates wants no time limits.

Mr. Yates said he is concerned about environmental damage in the future from a well inside the building that has been contaminated with a cleaning solvent. The well is being cleaned by Square D Co., a sister company of Telemecanique, under a Maryland Department of the Environment permit.

The source of the solvent is unknown. It was discovered in well tests in 1993, the year that Telemecanique stopped operating in the 156,000-square-foot building.

In addition, an electrical transformer on the property has been found to contain PCBs, a cancer-causing chemical used as a coolant and lubricant.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has a phased program to remove PCBs from its transformers, and have the transformers reclassified as safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But the Telemecanique transformer doesn't belong to the utility company, said spokeswoman Nancy Caplan.

Industries that use a lot of electricity can contract with BGE to bring electricity to the meter. The industries then run their own small distribution systems, Ms. Caplan explained.

The transformer "is pretty much their responsibility. They set it up, they own it," she said.

Square D "has nothing it wishes to discuss with respect to the transformer," said spokesman Wayne Larson. He said the property, including the transformer, is in the hands of the owner.

Glenn S. Bair, president of Development Co. of America, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Mr. Yates said one alternative the commissioners have discussed is construction of an office building on county-owned property in the county government complex in Westminster.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who said in July that the county's purchase of the Telemecanique building was final, said Friday that the deal is by no means a sure thing.

"If it can be purchased on our terms, it's a good deal," Mr. Brown said. He said terms have been a sticking point through several months of negotiations.

interest private developers in constructing a building "and we now have several proposals to look at."

they hadn't discussed the transformer, but Mr. Dell said the county's attitude remains, "We're not going to accept any contamination" on the property.

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