Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • IP cleanup still ongoing

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  • Like many Morehouse Parish residents, Grayson Kelley had close ties to International Paper. His grandfather worked at the mill for 40 years. Other family members and friends worked there as well. Two years ago Monday – on the eve of the implosion of the boiler that was the city of Bastrop's skyline for many years – Kelley reflected on the symbolism of the structure. “With the boiler still on the horizon, there was always hope that (International Paper) might come back. After Saturday, the boiler tower and that hope will be gone forever.” It was two years ago yesterday contractors working for Frontier Industrial brought down the 130-foot high structure, signaling what Kelley called “the beginning of the end.” Frontier Industrial and its subcontractors are nearing completion of the project that will leave the mill site barren. Where as many as 1,300 people once worked in three shifts, isolated pockets of people are clearing the 130-acre parcel that local leaders are hopeful can again be the site of jobs for area residents. Kay King, chief executive officer with Morehouse Economic Development Corp., said company officials earlier this year said the project would be complete by year's end. She has been unable recently to confirm that deadline. Regardless of when the work is done, King said she's letting people know the property will soon be available. “There have been some who've expressed an interest,” King said. “Will it be the type of project like IP was that employed hundreds of people? Probably not. But if we can find enough smaller employers, who are really the backbone of our economy, then it's a start.” International Paper will market the property to prospective buyers. Company officials did not respond to repeated requests for comments on marketing efforts or about a timetable as to when the cleanup slated for completion. The year following the mill's closure in 2009, state Sen. Mike Walsworth and former Rep. Sam Little sponsored legislation that former Mayor Betty Alford-Olive said was needed to have leverage in negotiations with IP over disposal of the mill's assets, specifically a power generating station on the property. The city latter attempted to expand those powers by asserting ownership through quick taking other privately owned utility companies. Gov. Jindal signed a bill in 2011 stripping the city of the quick take authority. For years, the property taxes paid by IP were vital to city and parish governmental agencies. Those payments have fallen by over 90 percent with the demolition of the mill site. Records from the Morehouse Tax Assessor's Office indicate that in 2008, the last full year the mill was in operation, the company paid a combined $2.43 million in property taxes to the parish and city. For the year ending Dec. 31, they will pay less than $45,000.
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