A Team Effort in Wylie, Texas
The City of Wylie grew out of the Golden Age of the railroad. Without the railroad, there might have never been a Wylie, Texas. The city took its name from Colonel W.D. Wylie, who led the construction of the original rail line through the city. Since then, the railroad has been central to Wylie’s progress. Most recently, in 2015, the Kansas City Southern Railroad opened a modern intermodal terminal in Wylie. Developments like that, combined with great city leadership and a top notch school district makes it no surprise that Wylie was named to Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live in 2015.
But like many cities in Texas, some of Wylie’s progress was threatened with derailment due to environmental contamination. In Wylie’s case, it was the declaration of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site just off of FM 544 at 900 West Kirby Street. Such a designation only comes when a piece of property poses a significant risk to human health and/or the environment.
To make matters worse, when the citizens and city leaders of Wylie asked the obvious question, – “who cleans up this environmental mess?” There was no easy answer. This is partly because the company that caused the problem is out of business and bankrupt. At a cost in excess of $1 million, no one was accepting responsibility or offering to pay for the cleanup.
That’s when the Wylie Mayor Eric Hogue, his staff and the city council got to work. The City sought the assistance of the Congressman Pete Sessions. Congressman Sessions played an instrumental role in having the EPA underwrite the cost of most of the cleanup. However, federal funds which are earmarked for a project can quickly disappear if the appropriated funds are not used on a timely basis. The clock was ticking and the EPA needed immediate access to the site to begin its cleanup efforts.
In the summer of 2015, Mayor Hogue called a meeting and invited me to address some of the difficult legal questions:
- “How quickly can Linebarger foreclose on this property so that the City of Wylie can grant access to the EPA?”
- “What potential liability would the City of Wylie incur if it took possession of the property and the cleanup effort failed or did not happen?”
- “What other financial/liability/ownership risks might the City incur if things did not go as anticipated?”
Working together, the City Attorney, an outside environmental counsel, and I responded to these questions and several others. With that, the City was ready to forge ahead.
The instructions were clear- get the property in the name of the City of Wylie so that the clean-up can begin “tomorrow.” Six months later, the property was in the hands of the City and within a few days before Christmas 2015, the City granted the EPA access and custody over the subject site. The cleanup began without haste.
On June 2, 2016, the City will conduct a re-use certification ceremony to recognize the efforts of everyone involved. Congressman Sessions will be in attendance. I am honored to have been asked to attend on behalf of the law firm. At that time, officials with the EPA will likewise be in attendance to issue a re-use certificate and certify the property as being officially remediated. 900 Kirby is finally on track helping Wylie be great!