ATWOOD, Ind.-State officials are planning an emergency cleanup of more than 3 million old tires following the collapse of a state-funded recycling venture to eliminate three tire piles around Atwood. Last December the state approved a $420,628 loan to Atwood Recyclers, a group of investors connected with the tires' owner, Garry Baker, to recycle the tires into various products. The investors agreed to put up $653,628.
But the deal fell apart this year when the investors apparently pulled out, according to a state Department of Environmental Management spokesman.
For eight years state officials have fought with Mr. Baker to reduce the tire stockpile, an estimated 3.5 million tires at three locations. One of the sites, containing more than 3 million tires, is the state's second-largest stockpile, the spokesman said.
In March 1995, Mr. Baker signed a consent decree with the Indiana DEM, agreeing to strict deadlines to reduce the number of tires. In turn, the state had agreed to wipe out a $2.8 million penalty against Mr. Baker. The deal enabled Mr. Baker and his investor group to seek a state loan.
Once a supporter of Mr. Baker, state Rep. David Wolkins initially was critical of the IDEM's handling of the case, arguing it would do no good to force the owner into bankruptcy and have the state pay for a cleanup. But he's changed his mind. ``At this point, Garry has had his shot. He's had his crack at it,'' Mr. Wolkins said.