'Tremendous' gains from new steel mill Officials excited by environmental, economic spin-offs


October 31, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Bethlehem Steel's decision to build a new cold-rolling mill complex at Sparrows Point is an important step in Baltimore County's decade-long effort to develop several other parcels there into a new industrial park, county officials say.

The best news for the county, say economic development director Robert L. Hannon and county environmental director George Perdikakis, is that the $300 million mill itself will be built on a 54-acre site that was to be part of the industrial park.

"It's a big plus for us," Perdikakis said. "Now, I only have to look at three sites instead of four sites."

Hannon said the best economic news is that Bethlehem Steel will install $200 million in new industrial machinery at the mill, which will raise the profile of the nearby land and hopefully attract interest from industries that make and maintain that kind of equipment.

"There's a tremendous amount of spin-off," Hannon said. In addition, the land is in an empowerment zone, meaning both property and corporate tax breaks for new ventures there.

Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said the example of the recent sale of Bethlehem's shipyard, which is covered by an environmental consent clean-up order that the company signed early this year, NTC is also encouraging.

If the shipyard can be sold and remain in use, why not the other sites, county officials reason. Hannon said the county may never have to take legal title to the land, but could merely act as agent, subdividing and selling tracts to new businesses, if Bethlehem agrees.

"We are anxious to cooperate with county officials and to see the property developed," Clifford W. Ishmael, manager of Human Resources for Bethlehem said yesterday. New businesses would help revitalize the southeastern county, he said.

The 311 acres of land scattered on four sites was to be given to the county in a 1988 deal in exchange for elimination of $3 million a year worth of electricity taxes. But worries about legal liability for some future discovery of pollutants on the sites prevented the county from ever taking title to the land, while Bethlehem enjoyed a multimillion-dollar tax break.

The liability problems have also prevented the county from taking possession of a separate 26-acre site within the steel plant complex where the former company-owned fire station is located. The station has been operated by the county for nine years. But plans to use the site to build a new station, plus a $20 million fire academy, garage and driver training course, have never moved forward.

Perdikakis and Maryland Waste Management Administration director Richard Collins say that now, however, if Bethlehem will cooperate, there is a way to end the liability stalemate.

The county hopes to talk to Bethlehem officials about authorizing a new consultant's environmental study of the fire station land and 138 acres along the peninsula expressway already served by utilities and labeled sites 1A and 1B.

If a study confirms earlier assessments showing little or no pollution, and if Bethlehem is willing to petition state and federal environmental officials to clear those sites from the general consent clean-up agreement for all of Sparrows Point, the land could be put back into productive use.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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