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The abandoned J&L buildings. Archive Photo of the Day: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg
The abandoned J&L buildings. Archive Photo of the Day: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg

St. Lawrence makes progress towards buying J&L site

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St. Lawrence County has gotten a step closer to buying the abandoned property of a former iron ore and steel plant in the southern part of the county. The state will relieve the county of liability for cleaning up oil spills on the former J&L Steel property.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

St. Lawrence County and its Industrial Development Agency have been trying for years to redevelop the blighted Jones & Laughlin site. J&L Steel ceased operations there in the late 1970s. Taxes haven't been paid since 1994.

Fred Morrill, the county lawmaker who represents the area in the town of Clifton, says the state comptroller's agreement to remove the county of liability for contamination cleanups is a giant step forward.

"Now we can take possession, we can subdivide the 17 acres that is relatively clean and get that for an opportunity for redevelopment."

Morrill says the county will buy the full 54 acre site for $18,900, including a chunk that's been listed as a state Superfund site for clean-up.

He says there had at one point been interest from a wood chip company to buy a part of the property, but it couldn't be separated from the contaminated part.

"We've had opportunities that we've had to let go by because we didn't own it."

Morrill acknowledges attracting a buyer will be a tall order. The nearby Newton Falls paper mill recently sold off its equipment and auctioned its land after years of trying to find a new owner.

One perk could be the fact that the state' economic development agency has planned to spend almost $10 million to revive an industrial rail spur from Carthage to Newton Falls.

St. Lawrence County IDA director Pat Kelly says engineers are currently clearing the line, getting permits, and doing an environmental review. He says the rail line is key to attracting new clients to the region.

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