Lead from Ashland gun club found on neighbor's land

The city of Ashland may have to spend $75,500 and give up a parcel of its own land after environmental testing revealed lead shotgun pellets from the Ashland Gun Club have contaminated neighboring property.

James Miller, who owns 12 rural acres between the gun club and Emigrant Creek, has proposed selling his contaminated land to the city of Ashland for $65,000.

As part of the deal, he also wants 3.8 acres of rural land the city owns west of his property.

Additionally, the city of Ashland would have to pay $10,500 in surveying, plat preparation and Jackson County planning fee costs.

The Ashland City Council will consider the offer during a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

In a memo to councilors, Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury said the deal would be a fair and equitable solution to a potential legal liability problem for the city.

The city of Ashland has already spent at least $113,080 in the past few years on environmental testing related to the gun club, which has operated on city-owned land since 1968.

Some of that testing found shotgun pellets on Miller's property.

In May, Miller made his offer to sell his land to the city in exchange for $65,000 and the city-owned parcel.

An appraiser found that the proposed $65,000 payment and 3.8 acres of city property would be a fair exchange for Miller's 12 rural acres, which come with irrigation rights, according to the city staff memo.

Miller's land must be valued as if it is not contaminated by lead to avoid the appearance of collusion on the part of the city of Ashland, the memo said.

By purchasing the land, the city of Ashland could not be sued by Miller and forced via a lawsuit to clean up the land, according to city documents.

The gun club has long leased the city-owned land on which it operates. It is located east of town off Emigrant Creek Road.

The Miller land could be added to that lease. The gun club would then bear the responsibility of regularly harvesting lead from the land, managing the property and bearing the ultimate clean-up costs, according to the city staff memo.

The current lease between the gun club and city of Ashland already requires that the gun club pay for final clean-up costs of the existing gun club site.

DEQ does not require a clean-up of the site unless it ceases operating as a gun club.

A 2011 worst-case-scenario estimate put Ashland Gun Club clean-up costs at $950,000.

Nationwide, gun club clean-up costs have varied widely from thousands to millions of dollars.

— Vickie Aldous

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