Johnstown cleaning up site

JOHNSTOWN – City officials say they’ve spent more than $10,000 in two weeks to clean up a former auto shop and car dealership, and the cost will only rise as public works employees continue discarding thousands of tires and tons of debris left by previous owners.

Second Ward Councilman Chris Foss told the Common Council on Tuesday that Department of Public Works employees have spent 212 hours discarding 1,390 tires and 83 tons of garbage at the garage at 111 N. Market St., with the running cost standing at $10,200.

City Engineer Chandra Cotter, who runs the DPW, said there is no estimate for the total cost, as the cleanup is only about 25 percent complete. She said it’s a smaller cleanup project than some of the leather mills and factories the city has tackled over the years, but some of her employees say the mess is comparable.

“And a lot of the guys feel it was the worst they’ve ever seen,” she said.

The 1.6-acre property along the Cayadutta Creek is 2 1/2 blocks from Main Street and sits downhill from the city’s historic Colonial Cemetery. It was built in 1977 and housed Kentris Chevrolet and Heritage Chevrolet through the 1980s before being run as an independent garage for the last 20 years. It has a full-market value of $214,000, according to tax records.

The city took ownership of the site last year when taxes weren’t paid by its previous owner, identified in tax records as Robert E. Morrison Jr. Morrison still owns three smaller, undeveloped lots on the other side of North Market Street, according to tax records.

In addition to heaps of auto debris and other garbage, the site has between 5,000 and 8,000 tires. A more precise estimate is impossible, Cotter said, because DPW workers can’t yet see all of them. The site also has several drums that appear to be engine oil, gas and other substances that can’t be put directly in a landfill. The city will contract with an environmental company to test the drums, she said.

Fulton County’s Department of Solid Waste has been helping the city, providing trailer-sized trash receptacles, a discount on debris brought to the landfill and a more inexpensive rate through the company that handles tire disposal, Cotter said.

She said the cost of the tire disposal partially will be offset by sale of scrap metal found at the site.

The city will decide later on the fate of the property, including whether to offer it for sale, with or without the building.

“Even if the council wants to sell it, I think it will be more sellable in a better state,” Cotter said.

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