MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — Muncie city leaders and officials with Waelz Sustainable Products said Tuesday afternoon they have agreed to stop their controversial efforts to build a steel-dust recycling facility at the former BorgWarner plant.
The agreement calls for the Muncie Redevelopment Commission to purchase the 85 acres that Waelz bought and find a different buyer. The commission hope to make details public Sept. 5.
The announcement happened less than five hours before a community-led forum on the project set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Muncie Central High School.
Event organizer and local pastor Josh Arthur called the timing “notable.”
“I feel relieved. I think our resolve was so focused that we weren’t stopping until this was over. So, in that sense, we saw it coming and so now we’re not going to let up.”
Even though the forum was somewhat of a moot point, Arthur told News 8 it is important to go on the record as a community that does not want this type of facility and to serve as a resource for other communities in the future who might feel the same way.
“First thing that came to mind was relief,” said Muncie resident Erin Kinsella.
The last time Next 8 talked to Kinsella she made an emotional plea with her baby in her arms to the City Council several weeks ago to rethink their decision to support the Waelz project. She and other residents had said they were not sure what they were going to do if the plant came for the sake of their kids.
On Tuesday afternoon, she had a much different demeanor with the demise of the plans and the outcry from fellow residents.
“Definitely humbled by the community response,” she said.
Environmental and health experts, many who are professors at Ball State University, spoke Tuesday evening about the potential dangers of the project under review by Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Andrea Cross came out to hear them speak although she knew the project was dead. A cancer survivor, she is worried about the health risks.
“We live a mile from the property,” Cross said. “I still was interested in hearing what the panel had to say and getting more information.”
Kinsella is thankful city leaders listened. Now, she and others are interested in helping determine the future of Muncie, one without concerns of toxic materials.
“So, what do we want to bring to Muncie?” she said. “What kind of place do we want to have?”
The announcement also comes a day before the Muncie City Council’s Government Administration Committee was to discuss elements of the project. That meeting was canceled Tuesday afternoon. So many residents were expected for Wednesday’s committee meeting that it was moved to the Cornerstone Center for the Arts.
The action came three weeks after a chaotic City Council meeting where hundreds of people had to be turned away to give comments. The majority were upset about potential contamination from mercury and other toxic materials.
Waelz officials said they were going to invest $75 million in the facility and would create 90 jobs. Waelz purchased the land from a private party for an undisclosed amount of money.
Megan Quirk, the attorney for the Muncie Redevelopment Commission, said negotiations are continuing for the purchase price and other details. She told News 8 she hopes to present the details at the next commission meeting on Sept. 5.
For liability reasons, Quirk has asked city officials not to be interviewed about the deal.