City Acquires Property On Elm Street

Attorney Dave Guevera addressed Batesville Board of Works members Monday.
Attorney Dave Guevera addressed Batesville Board of Works members Monday.

The City of Batesville has acquired the Becker property on 18 N. Elm Street.

The Board of Works voted to obtain the property and council members agreed to allow the city to pay for it which is upward of $80,000.

It was discovered in 2012 that the property had underground storage tanks that were used for a gasoline station.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Underground Storage Tanks program requires storage tanks that are unused for a month to be issued out of compliance.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP attorney David Guevara revealed Monday during the Board of Works meeting that researchers discovered the gasoline component benzene during a subsurface investigation at the property.

Guevara noted that soil and ground water samples were contaminated with benzene at 185 parts per billion.

“The mayor and I talked about solutions. Obviously, first is to have the current property owner address the contamination,” Guevera explained. “However, it is my understanding the property owner doesn’t have the finances to remove the storage tanks.”

“One way a solution can be made is for the city to come into possession of the property.”

The underground storage tanks have been in place for nearly 25 years. The cost associated with removing storage tanks is near $35,000.

To assist with the costly venture, IDEM offers the Excess Liability Trust Fund as a mechanism for the reimbursement of money spent by underground storage tank owners and operators on cleanup efforts. The program cannot exceed $2 million.

To be eligible for the funding, an underground storage tank must be registered, annual fees must be paid, and rules and regulations must be followed. According to city officials, the property owners had not been paying yearly dues.

City Council member Kevin Chaffee voiced concern regarding the amount of contamination and if more testing should be done prior to obtaining the property. The Board of Works later voted to approve the purchase of the Becker property.

Mayor Rick Fledderman stated, “This is a tough [decision] to make. I feel like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thorough measures have been taken and we have done as much research as possible.”

City Council approved the financial measures to be in compliance with the Excess Liability Trust Fund. The city will pay $35,000 for the underground storage tank removal and an additional $35,000 registration underground storage fee. The city will also incur approximately $10,000 in back property taxes and additional payments.

The underground storage tanks could be removed as early as 2015. The city will continue testing soil and ground water and address the contamination at the site and plan to utilize the Excess Liability Trust Fund.

The purchase should allow the property to become more attractable to potential buyers. City officials confirm the contamination is not a public safety issue.