ROME — Michael Burth Jr., owner of Mike Jr’s Auto Repair, 1030 E. Dominick St., was given 120 days’ notice by the city to vacate his property so the Department of Environmental Conservation could proceed with a major cleanup of the industrial wasteland where the automotive workshop is located.
Burth said the city was wrongfully forcing him out of his business located on property he rents.
But city officials said Burth does not have a lease in place with the city on the former property seized since 2015 and that if the city does not take advantage of a $1.1 million grant from DEC given to him, the cleaning would still take place. , but at taxpayer expense.
Burth said he had been at the East Dominick Street location for about 17 years.
“I have a history with this property. My grandfather owned it many years ago, he retired and I was too young to do anything at the time, so he sold it in the 1980s,” said said Burth. “The person who bought it let it go for back taxes, and I was directing it to whoever owned the property at the time.”
When the property was seized, “I then entered into an agreement with the city to rent it out with a rental contract, with garbage collection and payment of the water tax. There was never a problem and I always paid my rent.
Burth explained that the lease was made for his property during the James F. Brown administration and when Joseph R. Fusco Jr. became mayor, “It all started again,” but once again he was able to get a rental contract with the city.
“Then Mayor (Jacqueline M.) Izzo came into office and kind of gave me a hard time, and then they let me go during her first term, but during her second term, it all started again,” Burth said. “On March 16, I got a call from DEC saying they (the city) had gotten a state grant to clean up here, and I asked the gentleman, ‘Do I have to to relocate ?’ He said, “No, we’ve done this type of work a number of times in places around the state, and we work around you, and you work around us — we’ll clean up and then leave.” I was told that a certain percentage of contamination was allowed.
He said, “I called the city and they didn’t know that the DEC had contacted me and said, ‘Why did they call you?’ I spoke to the councilman for the area (first ward councilman John M. Sparace) and told him what they (the DEC) had said, and he said there was no problem and he thought I could stay here. Next thing you know, I’m getting calls and being told I have to vacate the property.
Asked about the situation, Mayor Izzo said the city owns 1030 E. Dominick St. and Burth “hasn’t had a lease since 2015 — he’s been month-to-month since then.”
Upon taking office in 2016, Izzo said the city investigated the property and “there was no active lease – the city allowed him to stay month-to-month because the property there is contaminated, and there is what the DEC calls a Record of Decision (ROD) outlining the contaminants that are still on the property, so we knew that at some point the property would need to be cleaned up.
The mayor said the city was waiting for the right grant opportunity through the DEC so it could execute the cleanup and the taxpayers of Rome wouldn’t have to foot the bill.
The grant “was presented to us last November – DEC contacted us to let us know there would be a pool of money and strongly suggested that we apply,” Izzo said. The East Dominick Street site “was just one of three other properties across the state that were scheduled for cleanup in what is a phase 2, which is a much more thorough cleanup. So at that time we informed Mr. Burth through his councilman, which is John Sparace, that the town would be asking for the money and that he would have to leave if the town won the prize , because that (cleaning up) includes demolition.”
The mayor continued: ‘If we don’t accept this price, which is now nearly $1.1 million, which will completely clean up the property, we risk the city being placed under an ordinance. of consent in the near future, in which case the DEC would just come in and clean the property at our expense and we would play no part in it except to pay the bill. It would be entirely the responsibility of the taxpayers.
Izzo said the city has tried to help Burth find other properties in the city to relocate his business to, and in the future, once the brownfield site at 1030 E. Dominick St. is cleared , the area will not be zoned for this type of business. .
“I don’t know the circumstances of the business setting up there, but I think everyone knew from day one that it wouldn’t be a viable site,” Izzo said. “It’s non-conforming use in this area, so it’s not zoned for this type of business. When the cleanup is complete, this type of undertaking is not permitted, as it will re-contaminate the area.
Regarding properties to relocate to Mike Jr. Auto Repair, “We have suggested alternate sites that are not owned by the city and they are only suggestions, but we have served him 120 days notice to vacate in order that we can continue with DEC toward cleaning up the property,” the mayor said. “And there are identified contaminants in there that are very dangerous to the environment.”
And after cleaning up 1030 E. Dominick St., Izzo said the city would be “very restricted” on what would be “allowed use” for the area.
“It would have to be something on a slab – maybe residential, but very ‘passive’ to the site, so anything that happens there doesn’t lead to recontamination” of the site, she said. .
Burth said the city “has its own agenda” and “has no idea” what kind of business it is, and has reached out to its local congressmen for help.
“I’m a AAA contractor for the area with 10 tow trucks – I have government contracts including the US Postal Service. They think I can just set up and move an auto repair shop, and it’s not easy. There are a lot of inspections for the site, and there are other registrations and licenses,” Burth said. “Looks like they want to attack the little businessman.”
According to the DEC’s ROD, waste/raw materials have been identified on the site and have an impact on groundwater and the subsoil.
“Waste and source areas have been identified in the central part of the site adjacent to and possibly below the onsite building,” the report said. “During the investigation, there were visual signs of oil contamination including non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL), sheen, stained floor, odor and high levels on a portable photoionization detector. (PID).”
He continued, “Elevated PID readings were observed at most ground drill locations at depths of 11 to 17 feet below ground surface. The highest PID reading was observed in the soil borehole located next to and to the east of the building. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,500 cubic yards of heavily contaminated soil present in the subsoil of the site.
The documentation indicates that the “corrective measures” decided by the DEC would include the demolition of the building once it is vacant.
“The current estimated cost to implement the remedy is $1,212,500. The cost to build the remedy is estimated at $1,152,000 and the average annual cost is estimated at $12,650,” the ROD said.
Mayor Izzo further explained that the PCBs would “break the masonry barrier in the building,” according to the DEC, and that there would be a cost associated with the DEC’s continued monitoring of the site after the cleanup.