Firestone plant demolition raises Perryville hopes

September 22, 1996|By Beth Reinhard | Beth Reinhard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For 14 years, the old Firestone plastics plant in Perryville just sat, a reminder of lost manufacturing jobs and an annoyance to residents who believed it detracted from the nearby Perryville Community Park, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

By the middle of next month, however, the plant demolition and land clearance that began in February is scheduled to be complete.

"Have you heard of the term 'white elephant'?" asked John Barkley, town administrator. "It was a big source of revenue and added to the vitality of our downtown." But after it was closed, "it was a big, ugly manufacturing plant, and I don't think people are sorry to see it go."

The demolition raises new issues. Who will buy the land? Would a new manufacturer attract trucks on Firestone Road that might pose a threat to families headed to the park? Or would a buyer try to change the light industrial-use zoning?

"The town wishes to keep the zoning the way it is," Barkley said. "We try to maintain a balance of residential, commercial and industrial."

Occidental Chemical Corp., which owns the land, acknowledged that it has received inquiries from commercial and residential developers. Ken Haseley, a company spokesman, would not identify prospective buyers or the asking price.

The 131 acres are valued by Cecil County's property assessor at just more than $2 million.

The Firestone plant, built in 1967, employed about 60 people and manufactured polyvinyl chloride, a plastic resin used in shoes, furniture and other products, until it closed in 1976.

Occidental bought the plant for $6 million in 1980, but shut it down just two years later because it wasn't making enough money.

Occidental, which sells $5.4 billion in chemicals a year, has paid a total of $500,000 to an environmental consultant and to Tenney Rigging of Slippery Rock, Pa., which has been taking apart the plant and selling the storage tanks, pumps and other materials for scrap. Haseley said the consultant's report found no environmental problems.

Pub Date: 9/21/96

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