The former mayor who negotiated Provo's agreement to buy the contaminated Ironton property doesn't believe the owner has the right to sell off a prime piece to a third party.
Former mayor Joe Jenkins, who's serving an LDS Church mission in the Ukraine, said he remembers the 1992 agreement differently than current Mayor Lewis Billings, who owns the property in question.Jenkins said he believes the agreement was that if Billings couldn't sell a 10-acre parcel within six months in 1992, which he didn't, Provo would have the option to buy it along with another 139 acres. Jenkins sent his recollections to City Councilman Paul Warner last week via e-mail.
Billings, who was elected mayor last November, and his attorney maintain that the 10-acre piece was never part of the deal. Billings is leasing the land to a third party with the option to buy it for $55,000 an acre. Provo is paying only $3,000 an acre for the remainder. Billings put the 139 acres into a blind trust to distance himself from the pending transaction.
City officials have been struggling to interpret language in the option agreement Jenkins signed six years ago.
Jenkins wrote that the intent is clear to him, and that Provo is entitled to all 149 acres at $3,000 an acre. City Attorney Gary Gregerson, who was in on the discussions in 1992, said he has the same understanding.
The council voted earlier this year to buy the entire parcel despite questions surrounding the 10-acre piece. Warner said it doesn't intend to change its position. "We're going ahead and moving forward on 149 acres," he said.
Provo intends to take possession of the Ironton land this summer after U.S. Steel begins removing hazardous waste from the site.