Friday, April 2, 2010

The Nature of Socialism in the Ozarks

No, I'm not talking about Medicare, public libraries, free parking on Dickson Street, farm subsidies for Jim Lindsey, management training programs for a Chinese flea market, or home delivery of junk mail. This is real, and it is costing taxpayers $2.4 million. Not a single Republican candidate for Congress has called a press conference to denounce it or to urge their flock to chain themselves to the fence in protest. The Teabaggers who oppose all millages for public schools have made n'airy a peep nor a misspelled sign against this one.

R&P Electroplating of Fayetteville
operated a metal plating facility from 1974 to 1997 in the industrial area on the banks of the White River. The company illegally dumped cyanide and heavy metals into the Fayetteville sewer system and severely damaged the city's sewer treatment plant. That cost Fayetteville taxpayers $21,000 in repairs.

The business owners walked away from the site in 1997, leaving the abandoned facility full of cyanide, acid plating solutions, solvents, acids, caustic soda beads and soda ash, oils, spent solutions and sludge. In 1999, 42,081 gallons of liquid waste and 410,200 pounds of solid and sludge waste were removed under an emergency order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Then it just sat there for years as environmental reports documenting the hazards piled up on the shelf. A few years ago under a previous city administration a proposal was floated to make it a city park with a playground. Obviously a bad idea, and it went nowhere.

Yesterday, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality announced public funding for a $2.4 million contract with Southern Environmental Management and Specialties Inc. of Baton Rouge to clean up the abandoned industrial site on Pump Station Road. The taxpayers will foot the bill to clean up the mess left by a private corporation that reaped profits and degraded the environment for more than 20 years. Still to come is the multi-million dollar cleanup of the toxic dump at SouthPass that a former mayor rushed to get for the citizens of Fayetteville.

Everyone seems to think it is alright to bailout banks with toxic assets and businesses that leave their toxic chemicals, but it is horrible to provide a public option for those who cannot afford private Blue Cross health insurance rates. The only consistency in all of this seems to be that socialism for the rich is fine, but public assistance for the less fortunate is terrible.


  1. Thanks, Jonah. Fine reporting and we need it. Let the City Council not forget, one of those business owners was on the Planning Commission in the early 90s.

  2. Way to go Jonah(s).
    But who cares about the dang envarmint anyways? Belongs to nobody. And the poisons draining into Beaver Lake will be covered by the new non-socialized healthcare when it hits our drinking water.
    And nobody ever owned this thing for years & nobody knew it was bad news back in the old days. And nobody will burn in hell for this gift to the community.
    And Judge nobody and his son are grateful for the cleanup of their toxic dump off ol' Cummins road.
    But as the sound of paper-shuffling rises like a flock of geese taking flight, will ADEQ double check on the well-paid consultants & cleaner upper folk?
    Sounds like job creation in the Ozarks...

  3. Both of the owners, Ken Pummill and Tom Suchecki, were on the Planning Commission during the Hanna years, and their electroplating mess is only a small part of the damage they did.

  4. Wow. Good thing we've moved beyond the vaunted conflict of interests of those long ago years on the current Planning Commish.

  5. Anon 10:28 said: Both of the owners, Ken Pummill and Tom Suchecki , were on the Planning Commission during the Hanna years".

    It's interesting that the newspaper article didn't mention their names. I wonder why?

    Ken Pummill was also was a board member of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. And, he appears to still be a member in good standing (see T & K Enterprises).

  6. How long has this problem been festering? I think this new mayor is a real go getter. When he gets the previous administration's messes cleaned up, he should have smooth sailing if he can get through the recession and the revenue losses. Too bad that he doesn't have that $67 million that went for sewer cost overruns sitting in reserves for these tough times.

  7. What happened to the comment thread that was going on here?

  8. It's not correct to say R&P was "the previous administration's mess". As Jonah indicates, the mess started in '74 and went on, unhindered, for a couple of decades. Lots of blame in lots of quarters. Sort of like the (going to be real expensive) SEFOR mess. Oversight matters. Transparency matters. That's why the PRESENT regime disappoints a bit right now, when we see criteria and procedure for committee/commission appointments looking a lot like the bad old days when R&P was young.

  9. I want to personally thank Dan Coody for signing that contract with the SouthPass developers (Nock, Broyles, et al) and agreeing to take the landfill for the city. Without that, we wouldn't have anything to show for our investment in the infrastructure, since the developers never delivered the promised deed for the park land. Fayetteville is the only city in Arkansas to voluntarily take all responsibility for a toxic dump and let the private owners walk away. We should get some kind of national award from Sludge magazine for being so business friendly.

  10. Jonah is once again blurring the issues by trying to justify one type of entitlement because of a misguided bailout. The Wall Street banks and brokerages houses and AIG should have been allowed to fail. The Government is bankrupt and can't run the post office. Why would we put it in charges of health care and insurance? That's stupid.

  11. Does anyone know where that Louisiana company plans to dump all of the contaminated material? Can the City make some money by letting them dump it in the City's toxic landfill in the middle of South Park?

  12. C. H.--

    The USPS receives no taxpayer funding. The problems of the USPS have to do with changes in communication habits and its failure to adapt, not the state of government financing. The current condition of the USPS is a failing of private enterprise, not of the government-- as is the current state of health care.

    The call here is to make a private enterprise, or in this case private entrepreneurs, responsible for cleaning up the mess they made. Jonah's last paragraph was written for effect. You help to make Jonah's point by complaining about the bank bailout and health care reform, but not about the irresponsibility of the owners of R&P Electroplating, or the cost of the cleanup, or the need for the government to step in.

  13. Where is your City Attorney on this? Seems a lawsuit or two needs to be filed. Who owns the property?
    Better still, who will own the property after gum-mint spends $2+ million to clean up the mess?

    Inquiring minds want to know.


  14. Fayetteville officials are exploring a move that would close city government on certain days to cut down on costs, forcing city workers to take unpaid time off.

    Fayetteville Shutdown?

    Mayor Lioneld Jordan says he intends to present a plan by the end of the month to address his city's revenue shortage of more than $200,000.

    Officials say that if the mayor enacts a mandatory furlough, city government would be all but shut down on select days. It takes just more than $100,000 a day to pay Fayetteville's 725 workers.

    Fayetteville's budget crunch has also prompted the city council to cancel a survey of how salaries in city jobs compare with similar posts in the private sector. The survey is done every four years. But since the council suspended pay raises in 2010, the city decided not to conduct the $20,000 survey this year.

    (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserve

  15. "City Promotions shaky investment"
    Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, NWA Edition
    April 4, 2010.

    Chart on pg 16A indicates Fayetteville contributed
    $125,000 to Chamber of Commerce in 2009.

    That's over half of the city's shortfall.

  16. Fayetteville had to pay up or the Fayetteville chamber would have started sending tourists and industries to Rogers!

  17. Very curious how Dan Coody accepted the deed to the toxic dump and didn't get the deed to the park. he and the city attorney should be ashamed to show their faces in public.

  18. Please, someone start running against Kit Williams NOW.

  19. Question is whether Coody really expected that project to go forward and get the park land and the money. He must be pretty aloof from reality and have been ignoring the news and the true situation in the boom times.
    There plenty of people speaking up at those meetings about its risks when all those meetings were held to discuss it. I wish I had gone and put in my two cents because a bunch of people are now able to say "we told you so." Sad as the situation is for the resident of Fayetteville, at least those who spoke up can know they did the right thing.

  20. There are several of us who spoke up on several occasions. The former mayor told us to shut up. I told you so is not even close to what will happen as the rest of the dominoes fall on these various "ponzi schemes". Many of the formerly mighty are still to fall.
    Couldn't happen to a better group.

  21. in arresting observationApril 6, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    Don Conner tried to warn the City Council about Ruskin Heights, the eyesore that sits in foreclosure and pollutes the streams, but they were too connected with Mayor Coody. Dirk was probably the largest contributor to the Coody campaign (and the Petty campaign) if you count all the free printing and yard signs from his various out of state companies. No one said thank you to Don, and the developers sued him for what he said. Kit Williams warned the City Council that they would be sued by the Southpass developers if they didn't approve everything that he and Coody promised them in the contract, including taking possession of the toxic landfill.

    Where was the 4th Estate on these issues? The NWA Times was part of the lapdog booster brigade for Coody on both Southpass and Ruskin Heights, as well as the Hank Broyles Aspen Ridge bait and switch deal.

  22. Please find something else to bitch about besides the Southpass deed, Ruskins Heights and former Mayor Coody.

    You've already been there and done that so stop beating a dead horse.

  23. You got a dead horse in this fight, C.H.?

  24. Speaking of DEAD HORSES:

    An excellent SouthPass post, vaporized.
    Had to be there, I guess.

  25. C.H., there are many who want to forget the mistakes of the past and those who were responsible for them. There are those who deny the Holocaust and say find something to bitch about besides Hitler, he's a dead horse. It is a magnitude of degree, but it is the same clever slight of hand that you and your crowd are trying to pull so everyone will forget about the self-dealing and the developers.

  26. Anon 3:12: we may be "slight" of hand, but I think you meant "sleight" as in "legerdemain."