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City scraps contract to buy scrapyard, plans to file for abandonment to clean up property

DIXON – The city has terminated its contract to buy Dixon Iron & Metal Co. because of an excessive degree of contamination found at the site, and officials plan to try to get control of the property to clean it up.

In March last year, the city entered into an 8-month contract giving it exclusive rights to buy the scrapyard at 78 Monroe Ave. as well as a nearby house at 86 Monroe Ave.

The City Council then signed off on three 3-month extensions to the contract to conduct more environmental tests to gauge the level of heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs, and what will need to be done to fix the issues.

Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said Monday that they decided to terminate the contract because the contamination exceeds Illinois and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, and the city will be filing for abandonment of the property.

If the site is legally deemed abandoned, the city will have control of the property and will request aid from the state and federal EPA to remediate the issues.

Dixon Iron closed late last year. Arellano said the contamination is isolated to the property, but the public should stay away from the grounds.

The city's overall goal was to buy the property, clean it up and make it into a prime development area.

"The scope of the project has changed, but our main plan of trajectory is still there, and we're certainly foreseeing a positive outcome," he said. "Our key focus right now is the public safety aspect and remediation."

In May, the council approved a $122,000 contract with Fehr Graham Engineering and Environmental to do further environmental tests, and the IEPA has been helping out for free throughout the process.

That amount is split up using $82,000 from the city's Central Business District tax financing district, or TIF, in eligible Urban Development Action Grant dollars, and the remaining $40,000 comes from the $300,000 U.S. EPA Brownfields Assessment grant the city received last year.

Dixon Iron has been owned by Jim Pitchford since 2007. The nearby house is owned by his son, William Pitchford.

The original prices were $310,000 to buy the scrapyard and $30,000 for the house, but the amounts were not finalized.

The properties are part of the Viaduct Point project, a partnership in which the city and the Lee County Industrial Development Association secured about 10 acres of land stretching from the Peoria Avenue Bridge to the viaducts to attract new development.

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