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Demolition starts at former Sara lee site

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WEST POINT, Miss. (AP) — Trucks have begun hauling away rubble from the former Sara Lee plant in West Point as the site's owner seeks a new use for the property.

The Commercial Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1l7sc1Y) the 70-acre tract along Eshman Avenue is majority-owned by Ohio-based Kohart Surplus and Salvage.

The company bought the land in 2010 and is sorting out scrap it can sell as it works to rehabilitate the site to market it for industrial or commercial use.

West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson and Chief Administrative Officer Randy Jones said no specific business has yet indicated interest in the tract.

"There's not any immediate need or any buyer in waiting," Robinson said. "It's just in order for it to be in a condition and a position for a tenant to come in and build or put something of an industrial nature there, this mess has to be cleaned up. There's no firm plan for anyone to come in, but that's part of a long range plan."

The Sara Lee plant closed in 2007, putting about 1,000 people out of work.

Jones said several buildings are still in good enough condition for tenants to move in and begin business quickly. He said the demolition and salvage project was a small one for Kohart, which demolishes large facilities and sells scrap metal.

"(Some of the buildings) would be suitable for several smaller commercial ventures," Jones said.

West Point received Brownfield assessment funding from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality last year. Part of it was used toward evaluation of health risks associated with the former Sara Lee site. Asbestos was detected. In order to properly remove it, as well as piles of rubble from the property, Kohart must keep the materials wet to prevent the hazardous substance from being stirred into the air.

Company officials said they don't know how long the demolition process will take.

Several other West Point sites have also been selected to receive Brownfield assessment funding, including two on East Main Street that used to be gas stations.

"Anything that's petroleum-based residual stuff around property is very high on (the Environmental Protection Agency's) list as far as funding for remediation," Jones said.

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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