Commissioners concerned about old gilsonite plant | CraigDailyPress.com

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Commissioners concerned about old gilsonite plant

Moffat County officials think the old Gilsonite plant south of town is a hazard and want it cleaned.

The plant was the busiest Gilsonite processing plant in the world in the 1940s but has sat empty since the 1970s. Gilsonite is a coal-like substance used in asphalt and paint.

Despite a decaying roof and a floor riddled with holes, the old plant has become a favorite hangout for vandals. Graffiti covers the walls, and all the windows are broken.

“There are some serious issues with that building,” Moffat County Building Inspector Pat Mosbey said.

After hearing complaints from local residents, Mosbey went to the plant last month to see what it was like.

When he walked into the building — owned by the American Gilsonite Company — Mosbey said he was “shocked.”

In his three years as Moffat County building inspector, Mosbey said he has never seen a building in such bad shape.

Broken and splintered roof trusses mean the roof is in serious danger of collapsing, Mosbey said.

A shed next to the building houses 55-gallon barrels filled with an unidentified hazardous substance. The containers say “flammable” and “corrosive,” but Mosbey said other than that, no one knows exactly what the substances are.

But the worst part of all, Mosbey said, is that the plant, the shed, and two office buildings next door are “totally accessible.”

The building was boarded up, but vandals broke through the boards.

Ladders leading to the roof and silos are easily accessible from the ground.

Mosbey brought all three Moffat County commissioners to the building a few days after he saw it.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said Wednesday the building is “a big safety problem,” especially because it has no security.

“That’s my No. 1 concern,” Steele said of the building’s accessibility. “We have to take care of that immediately before someone gets hurt.”

The commissioners approved a letter from Mosbey to the property owners at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

The letter gives American Gilsonite two weeks to secure the property and 30 days to come up with a plan to fix the plant’s many safety hazards.

Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Chris Nichols also sent a letter to American Gilsonite after touring the site with Mosbey.

“It is my belief that your structure, in its current condition, poses a safety hazard to the citizens of my jurisdiction,” Nichols’ letter says.

Nichols said Wednesday he has responded to two calls at the Gilsonite plant in the past few years.

In one case, children were on the roof, and in another, a citizen thought someone was trapped in the silo.

Luckily, Nichols said, no one was trapped in the silo, but the building still needs work.

“It’s just an unsafe structure,” Nichols said.

American Gilsonite Co. of Menlo Park, Calif., said it wasn’t aware it owned the dilapidated property at Russell and First streets, until a few days ago.

American Gilsonite was a subsidiary of Chevron Oil Co. until 1991, when a group of employees and investors bought it.

When the new owners took over, American Gilsonite Vice President and chief counsel Ted Stevens said no one outside the finance department, who was paying taxes on the Craig property, knew the company owned it.

American Gilsonite closed all their Colorado operations in 1973, Stevens said.

Stevens said the company will address the problems at the Craig facility as soon as possible.

“We’re going to send someone over to take a look at the condition of the building,” Stevens said.

A person from Craig recently called the company, Stevens said, offering to help fix it up and possibly buy the property. Stevens said that’s an option the company would prefer.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com