Industrial park rail hub prospect picking up steam

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This is a condensed version of this story. To see the full story, pick up a copy of the Oct. 18 Independent.
STANDISH — A railroad spur in the Standish Industrial Park could allow for more efficient shipping and receiving for manufacturing businesses, as well as allow for possible expansion or new businesses, and the hub could become a reality.
Arenac County Commissioner Adam Kroczaleski spoke about the hub during the Oct. 10 Standish City Council meeting. He said a meeting at Globe Fire Sprinkler in which county economic development corporation officials, manufacturing business representatives and railroad officials were present shed some light on what it would take for the spur to be developed.
The project entails several pieces working in unison, including businesses in the park working together. Paul Aultman, owner of Vantage Plastics, was one of the first proponents of a rail hub for Standish’s industrial park. He said his company would save significant money if there was a rail hub nearby, as virgin material is trucked to the plant from either The Andersons Grain Group plant on the other side of town or from Clare.
“We still have to pay for that trucking from there to the plant, which is pretty significant, because we get millions of pounds of material every year,” he said. “It definitely would be a benefit for Vantage.”
Lake State Railway Company President and CEO John Rickoff said said the proposed rail hub would be around 6,000 feet of new railroad. He said it costs around $1 million to $1.5 million to lay a mile of rail. However, multiple variables come into play when it comes to laying railroad.
“It depends on what property needs to be acquired,” he said. “It’s a function as far as what we have for waterways or utilities that may need to be relocated or crossed in some fashion.”
According to City Manager Jerry Nelson, there is limited space in the industrial park — 4 acres — that is not spoken for. Because of that, he said he believes one current occupant, the Arenac County Fairgrounds, would need to be moved for the spur to be a beneficial investment.
“For that rail spur to be there, there has to be expansion from the industrial park,” he said.
From the city’s point of view, expansion in the industrial park, which Nelson often refers to as the city’s biggest asset, would be a boon to the local economy. He said moving the fairgrounds would be good for the fair, too. Overall, Nelson said everyone involved would be better off if the rail spur moved forward.
“That property goes from public, non-taxable to private,” he said. “That means more tax revenue for the city. The fairgrounds would be moving to a better location that’s more central in the county.”
County Commissioner Adam Kroczaleski said during the Oct. 10 Standish City Council meeting the Arenac County Economic Development Corporation, while working on the Iron Belle Trail in the county, discussed property owned by the city of Omer being used as a trailhead. He said during those discussions, the prospect of relocating the fairgrounds there was brought up.
Kroczaleski said the city-owned property is 55 acres off of Arenac State Road and butts up against the Rifle River. He was asked by Standish businessman Dennis Whitney where the money to relocate the fair might come from Oct. 10. Kroczaleski said there are grant possibilities from state government agencies and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, and that selling fairgrounds parcels could also help fund the move. He said he approached Arenac County 4-H and the fair board about the possible relocation.
Fair board President Kim Karpinski, however, said she feels Kroczaleski and Nelson are working on the railroad spur behind the fair board’s back.
“My attitude right now is I’m really upset,” she said. “Adam came a year ago to our meeting and he said, ‘If you guys want to move, there’s a potential you guys could move to Omer.’ I guess someone came to the board years and years ago and they offered the property in Omer.”
The fair board recently was approved to sell raffle tickets in the city in order to fund fairground improvements, and Karpinski said she doesn’t understand why the city would approve the sale if it wanted the fair moved. Karpinski said the fair board is starting to see some growth and momentum — TNT Demolition Derby’s bump and runs have seen large fields and filled the grandstands and the Pops From the Past Car Show has been a hit since its inception.
“It’s not just a place to hold a fair,” she said. “It’s a place to hold any type of festivals, any types of events.”
Karpinski said she is upset with the lack of communication from the county and city.
“I’m very, very disappointed with these leaders who are discussing this without talking to the fair board,” she said.

Kroczaleski said there are plenty of options to fund all of the parts involved in the discussion — from the rail hub construction to the fairgrounds relocation. For the railroad, there are monies from the federal and state governments, he said.

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Connie O.

This seems to happen alot in Arenac County. Keep informed the best you can.3

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 | Report this

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