Part One: Environmental Tests Set for Hayes Lemmerz Site
Ferndale schools have 90 days to make a decision about purchasing the 34-acre parcel.
Acquisition of the Hayes Lemmerz property is progressing, but it's far from being done, Ferndale Public Schools Superintendent Gary Meier told the Board of Education's Operations Committee last week.
"We're moving along, but it might not happen for a number of reasons," Meier told the committee.
The biggest question is over any environmental problems the site may have, he said.
On May 9, the board authorized the district to move forward on a purchase agreement for the 34-acre parcel of property at Eight Mile and Pinecrest for $950,000. The property was once home to a division of auto supplier Hayes Lemmerz, a manufacturer of rims and wheels for cars, trains and trucks, and of transportation components and systems such as windshield wipers and defrosting and defogging systems.
Hayes Lemmerz left in 2006. Previously, Ethyl Corp. had occupied the parcel from 1940 to the mid-1980s.
The purchase agreement, signed May 24, gives the district 90 days to decide whether it wants to purchase the property.
When the Hayes Lemmerz property was put on the market, it was listed for $7.9 million. Director of Operations Gary Sophiea said that a few years ago, it was listed at $4 and $3 million. At $950,000, Meier said the price is a good investment.
The district has hired a company to perform environmental tests on the site. "We would not want to put kids on (the property) if it is not suitable for kids," Meier said.
The environmental study will be done in increments. If results show too much contamination at any time, the district can pull out of the agreement. The complete cost of the study is about $125,000, Meier said.
He said that after examining the records of Hayes Lemmerz, the district thinks the property may not be as contaminated as originally thought. "We have reason to believe that it may not be as contaminated as people might think," he said, adding that it's still speculation.
"It would still be premature to speculate it coming out the way we want," he said.
The environmental study is in the beginning stage. "They'll drill down, test the water, test the soil. The whole nine yards," Meier said.
Joe Walczak, an environmental specialist at the Department of Environmental Quality, said environmental tests are standardized, depending on what is being tested.
Meier said that as part of the purchase agreement, a confidentiality clause prohibits the district from sharing the results of the environmental study until the property is purchased. At that time, Meier said, the study will be made public and presented to the board. The board may tour the property before it finalizes any purchase.
"I'll keep you (the Operations Committee) apprised about how the project is continuing," Meier said. "There is still a lot of work to be done."