Alcona officials pass on building purchase agreement

HARRISVILLE — The Alcona County Board of Commissioners declined a purchase agreement from the U.S. Forest Service after a recommendation.

The matter was discussed during a meeting Wednesday where Alcona County Prosecutor Thomas Weichel gave a recommendation not to enter into the agreement drafted by Forest Service officials.

Board Chairman Craig Johnston said the purchase agreement was for the former forest service administration building that is now being used by the county to house the Michigan State University Extension, Alcona County Conservation District and Alcona County Veterans Affairs offices.

“The county has asked to purchase the property for many years and many people think we already own it, but don’t,” said.

Johnston said the county is using the building under a long-term land use permit from the Forest Service. Earlier in September officials presented a purchase agreement package for the county, with short deadline to sign.

During the meeting Weichel, who was asked to review the agreement when it was received by the county, gave his opinion on the matter.

“(The purchase agreement) points out a number of environmental issues, including lead-based paint and asbestos. They did a phase one environmental study, there are issues with ground contamination near the ‘gas and oil building’ and it identifies the requirement that further sampling and testing be done in reference to that contamination,” Weichel said.

Weichel said he was concerned that by signing the document the county would receive the liability to clean up environmental issues that were not put in place by the county with the building and property.

“When I read that language, I say it’s not a good thing to do,” he said. “It is my advice that it is going to cost you quite a bit more for cleanup, that building is not going to last you another 50 years so you’re going to have to tear it down and when you start doing things like that the cost of removal of asbestos is expensive, and you’re also disturbing the earth.”

Weichel cited an example of federal government agencies trying to convey land to local government with preexisting pollution issues. He said for decades the same issue has been taking place in Oscoda with the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

“That was problematic and my recommendation is that this purchase agreement not be signed,” he said.

Commissioners took no action on the issue and Johnston said he would contact forest service officials and inform them of the decision and keep the board informed on future developments.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.