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Asarco trustee says UTEP still interested in buying land

Cleanup of the former Asarco site, which began nearly six years ago, is now within just months of coming to a close.

The next step in the remediation process is to finalize a buyer for the property. The Asarco trustee told ABC-7 Wednesday negotiations with the University of Texas system and UTEP are “well along” at this point.

“We’re getting close to being able to fulfill that vision that a lot of El Pasoans had way back when we started in 2010,” Asarco site Trustee Roberto Puga told ABC-7 via a Skype interview from his office in California. “The demolition was kind of step one. Step two was to do the remediation and then step three is do a long term care of the site.”

Puga said remediation of the Asarco site is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. One of the final phases of that is adding five feet of dirt on the entire property. That will eventually clear the way for the sale of the Asarco site.

“A potential buyer that has expressed interest in the site has been the University of Texas,” Puga said. “We’ve been discussing with them for quite some time now. They still are interested and you know we are trying to see if we can work out a deal for their purchase of the property.”

Puga said the University of Texas’ interest, on behalf of UTEP, was initially only to purchasing the 240 acres across I-10 from the old plant and adjacent to UTEP. But he said discussions now center on the university buying the entire property, on both sides of the freeway, totaling nearly 400 acres.

“We have been negotiating back and forth for quite some time,” Puga said of UTEP. “I don’t think we’re at a point where we can really conclude anything yet, but I have optimism that a deal can be reached, hopefully this year.”

ABC-7 requested an interview with UTEP officials about the possible purchase of the property, but was told no one was available to discuss it.

Puga told ABC-7 they wouldn’t be selling the property for redevelopment if they didn’t think it was safe.

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