Over two years into a cleanup project, neighbors of the abandoned mill in Lupton City are skeptical of the city of Chattanooga's dedication to the work, despite recent legislative progress.
Though the city promised to have it cleaned up by summer 2017, the site of the partially demolished R.L. Stowe mill in Lupton City remains littered with rubble, creating an eyesore for nearby residents.
With a $1.6 million cleanup contract awarded by the city in January and a $245,000 asbestos abatement contract awarded two weeks ago, the city seems to be taking steps toward fulfilling its overdue pledge to restore the property.
Still, neighbors are not convinced that any actual progress is on the horizon.
Mark Mullins, president of the Fairfax Heights/Bagwell City Neighborhood Association, said the community has little faith in the city's promises.
"I absolutely take anything they say they're going to do, especially time frames, with a grain of salt," Mullins said after the contract was passed. "So far, all we have heard is talk, and it's kind of ridiculous."
According to Mullins, while the neighborhood's city council member, Jerry Mitchell (District 2), has been supportive of the cleanup, he is "just one council person" and the other city officials are "doing a less than optimal job" addressing the clean-up.
The office of Mayor Andy Berke says the city is trying to address the problem efficiently, but has faced unexpected difficulties with the cleanup.
"The remediation of the Lupton Mills site continues to present immense challenges. When the City acquired the land in 2017, we knew this property was problematic but not to the extent that we've since discovered," Communications Director Richel Albright wrote in an email. "We understand and share in the community's frustration."
In the email, Albright said that once a "notice to proceed" is issued, the contractor has 10 days to begin work, under contract.
"We recognize what a difficult situation this has been for the families of Lupton City," she continued. "Our Department of Public Works and project consultants continue to work diligently to find the safest and healthiest long-term solution for the community."
Mullins scoffed at the idea that the city was unable to complete the project faster, noting the 14-month, $10.3 million makeover of a downtown park that was completed in 2018.
"If you want to see how fast they take care of a project they care about, look at Miller Park," he said.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.