NEW PALESTINE — The building that formerly housed fire station No. 41 in Sugar Creek Township will sit empty a little while longer as officials work to tidy the property up.
The building, which sits at the corner of County Road 500W and U.S. 52, is owned by the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, can’t be sold until a petroleum leak from years ago is cleaned up, officials say.
Before it served as a fire station, the building housed a gas station, and petroleum leaked into the ground, posing environmental concerns, town officials say.
While the petroleum in the ground poses no threat to those living and working in the area, environmental officials say it needs to be addressed before the land can be sold or the building occupied.
Officials have been aware of the pollution problem for years and say they can’t sell the building and land until the problem is fixed.
An environmental study was conducted on the land, and since then the township’s board has approved hiring environmental attorney Nicholas Gahl for up to $2,500 to handle legal matters regarding cleanup.
Sugar Creek Township Trustee Bob Boyer said the township needed to hire someone to protect the township’s interest in the matter.
While the exact dollar amount for the cleanup cost has yet to be determined, Boyer said there is a chance suppliers who provided oil to the gas station years ago, might be liable for some of the cleanup fees.
The two individuals the township bought the property from have since died, Boyer said, but officials believe because the oil company supplied the gas to the station, it could be liable, which is why the township chose to hire an attorney.
The township found out about the pollution issue many years ago when the township first bought the building, and the town began to install a water system. Boyer said officials tried to set up a fire hydrant at the corner of the intersection but weren’t able to because of the amount of petroleum in the ground.
Officials say they want to put the building on the market as soon as possible, and once the petroleum leak is addressed, they plan to move forward. In the meantime, residents shouldn’t be concerned, officials say.
“It’s one of those things that if you leave a laying dog alone it’s OK,” New Palestine Clerk-Treasurer Becky Hilligoss said. “But, if somebody wants to do something with that property, they need to do something about it.”
Boyer said several businesses are interested in the building or land once the petroleum leak is cleaned up.
“It’s going to be awhile before we can do anything with it because we’ve got to deal with the cleanup issue first,” Boyer said.
Once attorneys figure out who is responsible for covering the cost of the work, the township plans to find a contractor to conduct cleanup.