City will try to stop demolition0

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2000

City officials will seek a legal opinion on stopping Intermet’s planned demolition of its now-closed foundry, although that recourse might not work.

Saturday, July 29, 2000

City officials will seek a legal opinion on stopping Intermet’s planned demolition of its now-closed foundry, although that recourse might not work.

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"We’re going to have some conversations with our solicitors," Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said. "On the surface, I don’t believe there’s any room for action with a private property owner."

Intermet recently requested permits from the city to demolish the entire 25.5-acre site of the iron foundry after no offers were made to buy the site, corporate officials said. Demolition could start as early as August and take six months to complete.

The city would rather see the property marketed to potential buyers in hopes that a new company could replace some of the 600 jobs lost when the plant shut down in March, Cleary said.

"There might be a way to prolong the decision that we could work out with Intermet," he said. "We’re exploring the possibilities."

City solicitor Mack Anderson said possibilities might be slim because private property owners can tear down buildings as long as they meet permit requirements.

The mayor said issues concerning tax abatements the city approved when Intermet purchased the foundry in 1988 might hold promise, however.

Former foundry workers – who invested money and bought stock to restart the plant after a previous shutdown – would welcome legal action to stop the demolition.

"I’d like to see the city put a lien on the property," Melvin Pauley said.

Iron workers invested at least $2,000 each, some invested more, but never received any of their investment back as promised by Intermet, Pauley said.

When the company announced last year that the foundry would close, Intermet said it never made a profit at the Ironton plant and, according to an agreement with workers, did not have to pay back investments.

Pauley said he finds it hard to believe the company did not make a profit, yet stayed open more more than 10 years.

"I live in South Point but I still hate to see Ironton struggling and see the company wear out a plant then tear it down without reimbursing anybody," he said. "I’d be willing to give my part to the city just so they won’t get away with this."

If Intermet intends to demolish the plant, then the property should go to the city for future development, Pauley said.

Former employee Gene Clement of Coal Grove agreed, adding that there has to be someone interested in the foundry.

"If there was any way to force them not to tear it down, I’d be willing to stick my nose in it," said Clement, who worked at the plant for almost 35 years.

But the investment that employees made in the plant in the 1980s is gone, he said.

Employees tried to get their stock back, but no lawyers would touch the case, Clement said.

"Nobody can prove they turned a profit," he said.

Also, Intermet put money into new dust collectors, hundreds of yards of concrete and a new production line, Clement said.

That debt had to be retired before the profit and, besides, no company would shut down a plant if it was making money, he said.

"They can probably do what they want to, but I’d like to see an outfit get it because I know it will make money," Clement said. "They (Intermet) didn’t try to make money with it."

Not only should the city get involved with trying to stop demolition but state and federal authorities should also watch to make sure any demolition happens properly so the area is left with a good industrial site, he added.

Anderson said the city probably has little recourse on the demolition but if employees feel Intermet owes them a debt, the employees might have a legal option.

The city could not be a party to a lawsuit because it is not or has not been a stockholder, he said.

"But if I’m a stockholder and they are tearing down a building that is an asset, I might want to bring suit to stop it until I’m paid what I’m owed."