January 21, 2019

EDC continuing to look at rail spur, fairgrounds relocation


STANDISH — The Arenac County Economic Development Corporation is continuing its communications with railroad and state officials in regard to having a rail spur installed in the Standish Industrial Park, which would require park expansion and relocation of the fairgrounds.

EDC Director Lisa Barna said she has been talking with industrial park businesses and the Lake State Railway Company about the Michigan Department of Transportation grant application to help fund a rail spur. Barna said a grant application is expected to be filed by the end of the month.

“We’ll see how much money we can get back and if we can actually make this project happen,” she said.

However, installation of the rail spur, according to EDC officials, would depend on the prospect of expansion in the park. But with most of the properties in the park occupied by existing businesses, the Arenac County Fairgrounds is one of the few places a new business or current business planning a large expansion could go. EDC Board President Curt Hillman said there has already been some interest in the fairgrounds property from businesses thinking about setting up shop in Standish in the future.

“It’s almost like it’s already been spoken for, but they just have to get it available,” he said. “There’s been more interest than I thought there would be.”

Kim Karpinski, president of the Arenac County Fair Board, said she hasn’t heard much about moving the fair lately, though. The last communications she had with the EDC about the issue was Nov. 10, Karpinski said. She said at that time, she gave County Commissioner and EDC member Adam Kroczaleski and Barna information they could use for a feasibility study grant application.

“It’s pretty in depth, but it’s the requirements of what the barns are, what kind of barns and locations, race tracks — how we would have to design the venue basically if we had to move,” she said. “Talking about everything as far as the race track — you need an entrance in and an entrance out, to make sure the cars wouldn’t block the highway or anything like that.”

Karpinski said the original proposal for a new fairgrounds in Omer has been taken off the table. Hillman said some other prospects are being researched.

“I know there were some other properties being looked at,” he said.

Karpinski said the fair board isn’t necessarily against moving, but wants the EDC to take the fair board’s concerns into consideration as it is more familiar with the fair’s and fairgrounds’ needs.

“As far as working with them, of course we’re going to work with them,” she said. “We’re not going to work against them. We’re still going to protect the fair. Agricultural education is really important in this county.”

“We’ll work with you to an extent, but don’t steamroll us and tell us how it is when you’re not even involved with (the fair),” Karpinski said.

Along with the fairgrounds relocation, Hillman said once a route is finalized, additional property might need to be acquired by Lake State to run a railroad into the industrial park.

“Once they nail that down, it’ll give you a little bit more of an idea as to what property would have to be purchased to get to the fairgrounds,” he said. “There have been preliminary plans with three different routes the railroad would come in.”

While there has been plenty of talk and work to get the project moving, Hillman said even if a rail spur grant is approved, it would take some time before it materializes and begins hauling freight to and from the industrial park.

“I think the biggest concern people have is that they think it’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “It’s just not going to.”

“If you had everything go perfectly and everybody totally agree, I think it’d be three years,” Hillman said.


Please review our community guidelines before posting

Please keep comments on topic and appropriate for all ages. Remember that people of all ages read our website. Those that are not appropriate will be removed. Please read our full community guidelines before posting.

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Copyright © 2019, Sunrise Publishing. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.