Watertown businessman shows interest in buying some of Sewall’s Island


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WATERTOWN — Local businessman and developer Mark Purcell has offered to buy a portion of Sewall’s Island from the city for $150,000.

City officials said they did not know what Mr. Purcell, who owns a local construction company, would like to do with the 1.35-acre site on the island’s north side.

Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said he didn’t know anything about the offer until he saw it in the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting.

“I’m reading it in my packet right now,” he said Friday morning.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. also said he had “no details” about the proposal.

Mr. Purcell could not be reached for comment.

The property consists of everything on the eastern side of the Pearl Street bridge and was once the site of the massive Black Clawson plant that was destroyed in a fire in 1999.

In recent years, the city has been involved in the environmental cleanup of the island, with the hopes of redeveloping a portion for park land, hiking trails and more.

In a May 17 letter, an attorney representing Mr. Purcell, Gregory A. Mountain, notified the city of the businessman’s interest in the property. The purchase also would include some land in the Black River.

City officials acknowledged on Friday afternoon that Mr. Purcell might encounter some issues with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. According to a memo, interim City Manager Bradford J. Minnick wrote that the DEC has advised that Mr. Purcell would “have to take responsibility for remediating the parcel” under the state agency’s oversight.

City officials believe Mr. Purcell may not agree to that stipulation. Mr. Mountain notified the city that the deal will expire on June 29 if an agreement cannot be consummated.

The $1.6 million environmental cleanup is expected to be completed in 2019. Once it’s done, the site will be ready for marketing.

Council members are expected to go into executive session to discuss the proposal. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers of City Hall, 245 Washington St.

The city owns 18.6 acres of the 28.7-acre island property on the Black River, of which about 10 acres can be developed.

About 5.6 acres of the island can be designated only for park development after 2 feet of new soil is deposited there, while another section can be developed for commercial purposes after a foot of topsoil is added.

Once remediation is completed, plans call for a park with gravel biking and hiking trails on the south side of the island. Retail stores, a restaurant and other commercial ventures could be a part of the redevelopment on the north side of the island.

In other business, the City Council will consider accepting a low bid of $3,507,110.88 from the Black Horse Group, Watertown, to construct the long-awaited Western Boulevard that will go through Stateway Plaza.

Two weeks ago, the company’s low bid came in about $300,000 lower than budgeted.

Work is expected to get under way in July on the connector road. State and federal funding will pay for nearly all of the project.

In another matter, council members are expected to discuss whether the city should apply for a state grant to help finance the city’s planned $2.4 million pool and bathhouse project in Thompson Park.

The city can apply for up to $500,000 of state parks money through the Consolidated Funding Application process for the project.

But City Engineer Justin L. Wood pointed out that pool projects are not a priority of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The grant application is due July 27 and the city should know in December if it is successful.


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