OGDEN — The city of Ogden needs more money to deal with the former Swift buildings.
With the cost of demolition of the structures higher than expected, city staffers have asked city leaders for an extra appropriation of $812,975 to cover remaining costs of clearing the site. The city originally appropriated $2.2 million for the Swift project, and the extra funding, if approved, would bring the cost of dealing with the site to $3.01 million, according to city documents.
That wouldn’t necessarily end things, though. The city could face additional costs beyond the $3.01 million to address any issues with the soil and groundwater beneath the Swift buildings, but such problems, if present, won’t be known until the structures are actually gone, permitting testing.
“That’s an unknown we haven’t been able to know or scope yet because buildings are in the way,” Brandon Cooper, Ogden’s deputy director of community and economic development, told the Ogden City Council at a work session on Tuesday.
On top of that, there’s the cost of cleaning the chemical waste — potential explosives, flammable materials and much more — found stored inside the Swift buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency managed and paid for that initiative, completed last month, but officials from the agency have said they’ll later try to pinpoint responsibility and bill the costs accordingly.
City leaders reviewed the proposed $812,975 appropriation at Tuesday’s gathering, but didn’t take any action. The council is considering holding a public hearing on the issue on Jan. 7, when officials could take action as well, amending the 2020 budget to add the needed funds. The extra money would come from lease revenues to the city from Business Depot Ogden.
The city bought the Swift property in 2017 from Utah-Smith — an entity connected to Bert Smith, the late founder of local retailer Smith and Edwards Co. — aiming to redevelop the land. The dilapidated buildings had long sat unused except for storage, and on discovering the wide-ranging quantity of materials stored inside, the city invited the EPA to spearhead efforts to safely empty the structures. The cleanup started on March 29 and concluded in mid-November, according to online EPA records. In all, EPA workers processed and disposed of 97,769 containers of varied size found on site, some of them empty, and processed even more materials in stabilization pits created at the location.
The council approved a $1.8 million deal in October to sell the Swift site to Atwater Infrastructure Partners, which plans to build a 125,000-square-foot aerospace manufacturing facility. First, though, the city must tear down the Swift buildings — two adjoining structures — and finish clearing and cleaning the site, according to Cooper.
Though the city could face additional costs if the soil under the Swift buildings is contaminated, Cooper said results from prior testing have been “fairly benign.”
The big remaining cost the city faces, $1.55 million, is to demolish the Swift buildings and stabilize the nearby bank of the Weber River, according to city papers. Cooper said demolition could start soon after allocation of the additional $812,975, presuming leaders take such action. The key costs for the city thus far have been $362,670 to acquire the site from Utah-Smith and $536,183 to abate asbestos issues inside the Swift buildings.
City leaders knew they would face costs in dealing with the Swift buildings when acquiring them. They were spurred to action in part to deal with the mess inside the structures to prevent bigger problems later. The location, what’s more, is part of a broader swath in west Ogden that’s the focus of city revitalization efforts.