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Partner Pulls Out of Controversial Pilsen Metal Shredder Project

By Stephanie Lulay | September 8, 2014 2:27pm | Updated on September 8, 2014 6:02pm
 A member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O.) displays his anti-shredder shirt at a February zoning hearing.
A member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O.) displays his anti-shredder shirt at a February zoning hearing.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

PILSEN — One of the two companies partnering in a controversial Pilsen metal shredder has pulled out of the project, a company leader confirmed Monday. 

Scrap Metal Services CEO Jeffry Gertler confirmed that the company is pulling out of a planned metal shredder facility near Loomis Street and Cermak Road. Instead, Burnham-based Scrap Metal Services announced last week that they had acquired an auto shredding operation and scrap yard in New Carlisle, Ind.

The company "has no future plans for the Pilsen site,” Gertler said Monday afternoon.

“Rather than add another shredder in this highly competitive marketplace, acquiring an existing shredding operation in the area, which met our company’s environmental standards, was economically prudent and strategically a good fit,” Gertler said.

Scrap Metal Services previously planned to partner with Bridgeport-based Acme Metal Refinery to open the Pilsen metal shredder Pure Metal Recycling.

Controversy over the shredder has been growing for months:

SMS' depature from the Pilsen shredder project won't affect the future of the project, according to Pure Metal Recycling President Mark Swedlow said late Monday afternoon. SMS was simply an investor in the site, Swedlow said.

"This has no bearing on the progress or plans for the" site, Swedlow said.

Pure Metal Recycling is owned by Scrap Metal Services and Brett Rock, LLC, according to Illinois business records. Brett Rock, LLC, is owned by Brett Baron, son of Larry Baron, CEO of Bridgeport-based Acme Refining. Brett Baron also works for the family-owned Acme company.

Now that SMS has pulled out, Pure Metal Recycling may consider other investors or Brett Baron may operate the Pilsen shredder without other partners or investors, Swedlow said.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) still supports the Pilsen shredder project, his spokeswoman, Stacy Raker, said Monday.

“The Pure Metal proposal has not changed since it was presented to the alderman, and he remains supportive of the project,” Raker said. 

Raker said Solis believes the project strikes the right balance between creating local jobs and protecting the community.

But opponents believe the move could indicate the project's future is on shaky ground.

SMS' exit from the project is a “small victory” for neighbors that oppose the Pilsen Shredder project, said Nelson Soza, executive director of Pilsen Alliance.

The Pilsen Alliance and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization  have said that the shredder would be too close to Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W. Cermak Road. The shredder would cause safety, environmental and traffic problems, Soza said.

“We feel the project is severely impacted by the announcement,” Soza said. “If this falls through, it would be a huge community victory.”

Pure Metal Recycling held a series of community meetings within the Pilsen neighborhood. In February, plans for the $30 million shredder were approved by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

But in July, the Pilsen Alliance filed a legal appeal attempting to invalidate the approval, alleging the operator missed crucial permitting deadlines.

Soza said the announcement might make it more difficult for project partners to secure permits and loans. 

As far as a timeline for the project, Pure Metal Recycling is now working with the EPA to acquire an operating permit and the city to acquire a recycling permit, Swedlow said. After the group acquires necessary permits, construction will take about a year, he said.

"Unfortunately for us, it's kind of a waiting game right now," Swedlow said.

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