Developers of the 141-acre smelter site in downtown Murray are adamant that two large defunct smokestacks need to come down.
That demand was reported to City Council members Friday during a study session that addressed some remaining issues on the old American Smelter and Refining Co. site.Mayor Dan Snarr said neither of the developers on the project, Boyer Corp. and Johansen-Thackeray, "want to be responsible for those smokestacks" and ask that they be demolished.
At the meeting, council members were also advised the city has received a preliminary bid of $600,000 to knock down the stacks and dispose of the rubble, provided there is no environmental contamination of the bricks or the ground underneath the stacks.
A previous study by Dames and Moore, an engineering consultant, estimated the cost of demolishing the stacks and getting rid of contaminated bricks at anywhere between $1.12 million and $2.16 million, depending on the level of contamination involved.
Council members said they're concerned the $600,000 figure may be a "low-ball bid" and said it's probably unrealistic to think there won't be any environmental problems considering the level of arsenic and lead contamination found at the smelter site.
Councilman John Ward wondered why the city is even entertaining the demolition bids at a time when no decision has been made on the state of the smokestacks.
The city has taken no official position on whether the stacks, which have long been among Salt Lake Valley's most prominent landmarks, should stay or go.
Snarr said he's merely exploring the possible options for the future of the stacks, but reiterated that the developers do want the stacks to go.
"We're remaining neutral," Snarr said. "If we want to assume the liability and buy the stacks we do have the right to do that."
But that action also implies that the city would have to assume the bulk of the cost for reinforcing the large structures and insuring them in the event of an unforeseen disaster.
Ward replied that he's worried that, in the rush to develop the smelter site, the question of what to do with the smokestacks is being lost in the shuffle. "I've said from the beginning that the stacks should be preserved" if possible, Ward said. "I would think the current owners have some (financial) responsibility, at least up to the real cost of what it would cost, to demolish them.
"I also think the developers have a responsibility to contribute to that," he said, "because if the stacks stay up, it would be a real amenity for the development."
Councilman John Rush said the Murray Historical Society and many residents want city officials to "explore every option for retrofitting them and preserving them as a landmark. People feel very strongly about keeping them up."
Former city attorney Craig Hall, who is now working for the city as a consultant, said the city has three options regarding the stacks:
- Move ahead with environmental remediation of the smelter site and leave the smokestack issue for a later time.
- Let the current owners do what they want to do with the stacks without city intervention.
- Deal with the smokestack issue now, which means the city would have to spend about $3 million to shore up the chimneys.
Hall said the cost of keeping the smokestacks would be roughly $300 per household and said it would require almost doubling Murray property taxes if the retrofitting and reinforcement were funded by the property tax.
Other council members, however, indicated they would oppose a property tax increase and would like to explore other options such as a general obligation bond, interdepartmental loans or grants if necessary.
Developers are expected to come to the city during the Murray Redevelopment Agency meeting Tuesday to discuss what they would like from the city in terms of developing the smelter property. There also will be a study meeting Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in the council chambers to let various stakeholders know what options the council is studying.