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MISSOULA - Stimson Lumber Co. has entered into a buy-sell agreement for the Bonner mill site property with Scott Cooney's Montana Improvement Co.

Jeff Webber, Stimson Lumber's vice president of manufacturing, said he could not disclose terms of the pending sale of the 170-acre site, which the company listed last August at $16 million.

"At this point there are some contingencies from the sale that both the buyer and the seller are working hard to remove," said Webber. "Closing of the sale is expected to be by early May."

Cooney said he plans to use the site for diverse small industry and education enterprises, including a concrete science program for the University of Montana's College of Technology.

Cooney partnered with Grant Lincoln to form the Montana Improvement Co. Cooney already owns 16 acres adjacent to the mill that include some company houses, as well as 112 acres of an old mill log yard on the opposite bank of the Blackfoot.

He and his partners also purchased the lion's share of equipment and machinery at Stimson Lumber's auction in Bonner last fall, with the intent of keeping them on site in the event of a sale agreement.

Webber said Stimson will not abdicate responsibility to clean up a PCB-laced cooling pond on the Blackfoot River.

Bill Kirley, attorney for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, has asked Stimson Lumber for written confirmation of that but said Thursday that he has not yet received it.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath filed suit in December demanding that Stimson Lumber remove the berm of the cooling pond as well as the contaminants, claiming in part that it trespasses on a public waterway.

Webber said the company's attorneys are in discussions with McGrath's office about the suit.

Stimson, which laid off its final workers at a finger-joint plant in Libby last August, still owns roughly 100,000 acres of timberland in western Montana. Webber would not comment on the fate of those holdings.

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