Some residents who live along river are skeptical of Shaheen's offer


Dr. Samuel H. Shaheen may have offered to buy properties along the dioxin-tainted Tittabawassee River, but homeowners aren't buying the offer.

"I don't think he's serious," said Kathy Henry, the chief litigant in a dioxin-related lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co. "He's just desperate to get rid of the problem."

The Saginaw Township physician and entrepreneur announced Thursday that he and fellow business associates would buy any home along the river for twice the state equalized value plus $25,000 to $50,000.

Shaheen refused to speak to The News about his statement.

He agreed to meet with at least one homeowner, Chuck Abbott, who hopes to find financial reprieve from a Thomas Township property he believes is unsellable because of dioxin contamination.

Henry said she happily would consider the offer if it is legitimate. But she believes it is nothing more than wishful thinking by someone wanting the dioxin controversy to just go away.

Leonard Heinzman, a Tittabawassee Township resident who repeatedly has criticized the dioxin fervor as overblown, can't foresee the Saginaw Township businessman following through with the offer.

If he were to stick to members of the lawsuit against Dow, he'd have 164 named plaintiffs to deal with and more than 400 who want to participate in a larger class action suit.

However, Heinzman said Shaheen's offer reflects his confidence that dioxin has not rendered properties along the Tittabawassee River worthless.

"Dr. Shaheen is not afraid of the value of those properties in the long-term," he said. "This guy isn't out to lose money. He's not just going to buy people out to make them feel good."

Heinzman said he has no interest in taking Shaheen up on the offer, valid or not. He wants to stay along the Tittabawassee River and even is considering buying more property.

Bruce Trogan, an attorney representing residents against Dow, doesn't anticipate Shaheen's offer having much effect on the pending lawsuit, even with its demand for compensation for lost property values.

He said Shaheen may purchase select properties along the river, but certainly not all 2,000. And even if the businessman offers to buy some homes, he said the price likely will fall below the market rate.

"I have great respect for Dr. Shaheen as a savvy investor," Trogan said. "If he does buy some property, he will buy them for less than market value."

Trogan doubts the price will persuade homeowners to withdraw from the lawsuit. He wonders if Shaheen even will make an offer after researching the property further.

"If he finishes his homework, he will discover how grossly and dangerously contaminated the properties are as well as discover the restrictions placed on the properties by the (state Department of Environmental Quality), having declared them a hazardous waste facility," Trogan said.

Shaheen's offer comes as no temptation to Shirley Salas, a Tittabawassee Township resident who runs a Web site antagonistic of people raising the dioxin alarm. She believes her neighbors and a majority of riverside residents share those sentiments.

Why? Because dioxin is a non-issue, she said.

"I don't think Dr. Shaheen is going to find a lot of people to take him up on the offer," Salas said. "Most of the people that I know who live along the river don't even worry about the dioxin."

Martha Stimpson does. The Thomas Township woman said she wants to get her hands on a sign-up list if Shaheen is serious.

"If he wants to pay double SEV plus $50,000, I will swap houses with him no problem," she said.

But if his offer is legitimate, she hopes the businessman won't turn around and sell the property to someone else who will have to cope with the same contamination problem.

"If Dr. Shaheen buys my house, I hope he never allows a young family to buy it," she said. "I hope he never lets another generation of children be born in this polluted toxic soup." v

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer at the Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

© 2005 Saginaw News

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