SPRINGWATER — The Town of Springwater recently received a notice of demand from the State Attorney General’s Office informing them that they are responsible to pay a nearly $7500 fine for cleanup of an environmental gasoline spill in 2002 on the former Wormuth property at 7879 Mill St, at the intersection of Rt. 15 and 15A.
The gas spill the town is now being charged with, affecting ground water and soil, was cleaned when the spill occurred in 2002, before the town owned the property, and a lien for the cost was put on the property. Six years later, in 2008, the business district property was assessed at $47,000, and was put up at county auction for nonpayment of taxes. It was located at the corner of 15 and 15A, at the light, with a little over 1⁄2 acre with 147 feet of road frontage on Rt. 15, and 175 feet of road frontage on the west side of Main St.
At the auction, the property was purchased by Clifford Yeoman, who, after winning the bid, decided he did not want the property because there were charges and liens against the property he was not made aware of before bidding. As a result, Yeoman agreed to release his claim on the property for about $6,500 to the Town of Springwater, after negotiation with Supervisor Norbert Buckley. As some of the liens for past due taxes and other expenses became evident after the purchase, it was noted that the board never officially voted to buy the property. So, on May 9, 2011, with Supervisor Norbert Buckley absent from the meeting, the town board voted to “ratify, approve and affirm all prior actions taken and expenditures made with regard to the purchase of the property.Several years after the purchase, the building had deteriorated to the point where the roof was collapsing, and it was becoming even more of an eyesore, so the building was torn down. The property on the corner of Rt. 15 and 15A then became a park with a gazebo. Unfortunately, the liens against the property included the almost $7500 cost of clean-up of that 2002 gasoline spill, which is now being demanded by the State Attorney General’s office, and if not paid soon, may also include penalties.
According to James Campbell, attorney for the town, the town has an extension now, giving him time to research the claim. “It may well be we have to pay it,” he said. “If you get an environmental lawyer at $500 an hour to fight it, especially if Wormuths have taken some responsibility for paying part of this. Lowering the cost, it may well cost you more [to fight it] than the bill, and this [pollution] should not be a recurring problem…I really need more time to look at this, and they have given us an extension.”