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Ogilvie site cleanup bids come in lower than expected

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WATERTOWN — The former Ogilvie Foods plant site may finally be ready for redevelopment this summer after bids for cleaning up the site came in under budget Thursday.

With seven companies submitting bids, all but one came in under $500,000, while the city budgeted $640,000 for the work, said Kenneth A. Mix, city planning and community development coordinator.

For years, both the city and Neighbors of Watertown had hopes of redeveloping the site of the former food plant between North Pleasant Street and California Avenue, but costs and contamination hindered those efforts.

Mr. Mix was pleased with the bids.

“They came in decent,” he said.

Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said having so many bids come in under budget was encouraging. She said she becomes leery when one bid comes in really low and others are high.

“Wow, that is good news,” she said. “That’s fantastic.”

Once the 5-acre site now owned by the city becomes shovel-ready, about four single-family houses would be constructed, two facing California Avenue and two facing North Pleasant Street. A city park or green space would be created on the inner part of the site.

The City Council informally agreed in September to forgo previous plans to redevelop the site into a neighborhood of single-family houses along a new street. It would cost too much to remove the remnants of the plant’s foundation to do anything else, council members decided then.

Council members have yet to decide whether the city should sell the lots and allow developers to build on them.

Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity also has expressed interest in building homes on the four lots.

City officials projected it would cost $800,000 to $900,000 to construct a street and complete other infrastructure if the site were fully developed. And they determined there was more foundation debris at the site than they had anticipated; remnants of the plant’s foundation would have to be removed before a street and houses could be built.

The city will use a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean up soil contamination, cement foundation slabs and other debris from the old food plant. The city also set aside $440,000 in its capital projects budget for the job.

The company whose bid is accepted will do some of the foundation and petroleum cleanup.

The city has been talking about redeveloping the site for about 10 years. Residents have called the site an eyesore; they have supported turning it into residential properties.

Two years ago, Neighbors of Watertown Inc. considered seeking state money to turn the site into a subdivision with 19 homes, a road and a quarter-acre park. Those plans died after state funding ran dry.

Ogilvie Foods closed in 1995. The plant was abandoned and eventually was torn down by the city in 2003.

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