As part of the demolition and environmental cleanup of the former Long Lane School site, located less than a mile northwest of the campus center, the state will reimburse the University $2 million. Following this installment of funds, which was approved during a Jan. 8 meeting of the Connecticut State Bond Commission, the state will still owe the University approximately $14 million for the remaining environmental cleanup costs as stipulated in Public Act 99-26.
The site is currently home to athletic fields, including a softball field, an all-weather turf field, and a rugby field, as well as the Physical Plant offices, which are located in Long Lane School buildings that were not demolished.
“The item did pass through the Bond Commission agenda,” said Jeff Beckham, a spokesman for the State Office of Policy Management. “We are paying as the college does remediation and incurs expenses. The plan is eventually to fully fund the obligation.”
The University purchased the state-owned property in 2000 for $16 million on the condition that the state would reimburse the University for “all necessary costs of . . . remediation as may be required for [the land] parcels to meet . . . [environmental] remediation standards,” as stated in Public Act 99-26. The 160-acre parcel had previously housed a juvenile detention facility, which moved and then closed permanently in 2003. According to Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for Facilities, the University purchased the land due to its adjacency to campus.
“Owning the land, some of which Wesleyan previously leased from the state for athletic fields, also ensures that any development there is compatible with our campus,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
The University spent $5 million on clean-up efforts for the site on work done prior to October 2008. The state reimbursed the University approximately $3 million that year; however, due to the economic downturn, work on the site was halted until the state was able to further reimburse Wesleyan.
According to Topshe, the University will receive the $2 million within 30 to 60 days following the Commission’s approval of the spending item, although the state has not committed to a specific timeline to refund the remaining $14 million of the remediation work.
“Wesleyan is hopeful that the State Bond Commission will approve the remaining $14 million of work this year as the economy improves,” Topshe wrote.
Work for which the state agreed to reimburse the University includes the removal of storage tanks, the cleanup of waste storage areas, and the elimination of hazardous or toxic substances.
Removal of environmental contaminants located underneath the softball and rugby fields is one of the projects that the remaining $14 million in reimbursement funds will cover.
“Based on advice from our environmental consultants the contaminants in the ground beneath the softball and rugby fields do not pose an immediate threat,” Topshe wrote.
Director of Environmental Health, Safety, and Sustainability Bill Nelligan, said that although he was not a consultant, the current use of the fields does not present a risk.
“I can assure you that the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection would not have released the property on the Rugby/practice fields if a significant hazard was present,” Nelligan wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.