MEDIA ROUND-UP – Unanimous approval for deal to shut down Exide lead smelter; Residents ask for City diligence and citizen participation to ensure proper closure, remediation
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Frisco Council OK’s Deal That Will Shutter Exide Plant
Matt Goodman – CBSDFW.com
The Frisco City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a deal that will shut down the controversial Exide Technologies battery recycling plant.
The vote was the last obstacle in the city’s ongoing battle with the plant. Under the deal, the city will pay Exide $45 million for the 180 undeveloped acres that surround it.
Exide will cease its operations by the end of the year. It will also tear down the plant and clean the site, but it still owns the 80 acres where the plant itself sits.
The battery recycling center was one of 16 locations in the U.S. that exceeded federal air quality standards for lead emissions, which have been proven harmful.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s initial report, issued in November 2010, reported finding unsafe lead emissions in the air south of downtown. The swath in question included several subdivisions, apartment complexes, schools and parks.
Community activist groups quickly called for the city to force the plant to shut down. They sent thousands of petitions to homeowners requesting support.
The city and the plant frequently butted heads regarding cleanup plans, eventually prompting Frisco to move forward with a process to legally shutter the nearly 50-year-old plant.
The deal the City Council OK’d on Monday will stop that from happening.
When Mayor Maher Maso announced the details of the deal last week, Exide spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo painted it as an economic decision rather than environmental.
“It was a matter of the city approaching us with what we felt was a fair value for our operations,” she told CBSDFW on May 31. “We decided from a business sense to move forward with this.”
More than 130 employees will lose their jobs, although Jaramillo said the company will work with them to find new positions. Exide Technologies also has lead smelters in Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and California, but no others in Texas.
Prepared statements from city leaders issued after the approval vote say some the 86 acres that line the Dallas North Tollway will be sold to private developers while the rest of the land will be developed into parks “and other municipal purposes.”
“We’ve always done creative things, and this is another example of how the community took a positive approach that avoided adversarial legal proceedings, which could have loomed over development plans for years,” said Frisco Economic Development Corporation Chairman Allen Biehl in a prepared statement.
The release says the city will look for developments that will link the future Grand Park, Frisco Discovery Center, and the yet-to-be-built Museum of the American Railroad and Heritage Center.
Some land, the city hopes, will be used for office space.
Possible municipal use for the land include fire fighter training facilities and a new administration building, the release says.
Decontamination Around Exide Plant Could Be Lengthy, Expensive
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Three votes in Frisco on Monday night marked the beginning of the end for the last battery recycling plant in Texas.
Two city boards and the Frisco City Council unanimously approved a business deal that calls for the closure of Exide Technologies’ secondary lead smelter by the end of the year. The agreement was approved earlier by Exide’s board of directors.
“This brought closure quickly, and it’s what our residents have been asking for,” Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said of the plant that has been operating in the heart of the city since 1964 and has prompted concerns in recent years about high lead emissions.
Several people who spoke before the council vote all had praise for the deal and asked the city to continue its diligence as cleanup of the plant’s contaminated property goes forward.
“This has always been about health and the environment,” said Eileen Canavan of the environmental group Frisco Unleaded, formed last year with the goal of closing the plant down.
The agreement approved Monday calls for the city to purchase 179 acres of vacant land around Exide’s operations. Exide will retain nearly 90 acres of industrial property that houses its facilities and has the greatest contamination. The company has agreed to dismantle its operations and clean up contaminated areas as required by state and federal regulators.
The city will pay for cleanup on the land it is purchasing, which has been a buffer between the plant and the dozens of homes and businesses around it. Maso said estimates put the cost at about $700,000.
The plant’s 134 employees were notified last week that their jobs would be phased out between October and December.
Some residents on Monday called for the creation of an oversight panel made up of Frisco Unleaded members to monitor the closure and remediation of the Exide property.
Maso said that the council has not discussed the idea of a formal panel, but that the city can be more open about the process now that the legal issues have been resolved. He said there would be a lot of opportunities for input from all residents.
Financing the deal
The land deal will be financed with money from the Frisco Economic Development Corp. and the Frisco Community Development Corp. Both entities are funded through a half cent of the city’s sales tax.
The Economic Development Corp. will spend $27 million to purchase nearly 86 acres of land that fronts the Dallas North Tollway. Uses being considered include regional or national headquarters as well as warehouses. The Community Development Corp.’s purchase of 93 acres, costing $18 million, will be considered for parkland and possible municipal uses, such as a fire training center.
“We are extremely excited about the prospects open to us now to put this real estate to use in attracting new business to Frisco,” Maso said. “Cities that have grown as fast as Frisco rarely have the opportunity to secure this much prime land in the heart of the community.”
One after another
The votes on Monday came in succession. The City Council and the boards for the two development corporations all convened at the same time Monday in different rooms.
Each board immediately went into closed session for legal advice. First out was the Community Development Corp., which voted unanimously to OK the deal with Exide. Then came the Economic Development Corp., which was meeting two floors up at City Hall and gave its unanimous approval six minutes later.
Shortly after came the vote from the City Council, meeting on the first floor. The council voted 5-0 in favor of the agreement.
Present but not voting was City Council member Tim Nelson, an Army reservist who has been deployed to Afghanistan for the past seven months but had a 15-day leave. Although he could not cast a vote because of his active-duty status, he had praise for those who did. He also commended Exide “for their vision to realize the best solution is a business solution.”
Zac Trahan with the Texas Campaign for the Environment told the council it was making history with its vote, but cautioned that the plant’s closure was only the first step.
He said that although Exide’s Dixie Metals plant in Dallas has been closed since 1990, that land is still contaminated and its presence is still marked with a concrete bunker behind a chain-link fence.
“Just like you solved this problem on your own tonight,” Trahan said, “it’s going to be up to you to solve the long-term problem for cleanup.”
Staff writer Ananda Boardman contributed to this report.