As expected, the City of Madison has sold the old Rosebud property at a 66% loss. The non-profit Inter-Lakes Community Action Program gets a whole half-block of downtown Madison for $135,000 (plus up to a $10,000 share of clean-up costs). That's down from the $400,000 the city paid the LAIC after the economic development corporation paid former owner Rosebud Manufacturing $500,000 to vacate the premises.
As an eager reader noted, the city is playing quite a shell game but not creating any new shells.
Chuck Clement's on-the-spot report from last night's city commission meeting notes that the old Rosebud site has some EPA-rousing lead concentrations greater than 400 parts per million. Mayor Hexom assures us those lead concentrations are in (Clement's words) "two relatively small locations." And we're getting a nice brownfields restoration grant from Uncle Sam via the state DENR to help cover cleanup costs.
What strikes me is that the newspaper and the mayor make no mention of Rosebud's responsibility for this contamination. The city knew this was an industrial site with potential pollution and cleanup costs. Did we taxpayers really buy this property and let Rosebud go away free and clear? Was it really so important to us to shunt those grungy blue-collar workers away from our pretty little Main Street and replace them with shiny happy white-collar ICAP employees that we would let Rosebud split without assuming even a portion of the cost of cleaning up their own mess?
Conceivably, the pollution could predate Rosebud's occupancy of the block. But Rosebud operated there for forty years. It owned any problems on that land. The city should have been more diligent in holding Rosebud responsible for lead contamination and other problems that would make the land hard to redevelop.
But this is how Madison works. Let your grass grow taller than six inches, and Mayor Hexom will be on your case like flies on poop. Try to start a business the city finds objectionable, and the powers that be will stop you cold. Contaminate the ground with lead but play along with the city's shell game, and the taxpayers will bail you out.
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