New plant to coincide with rail restoration
By Scott Bellile
New London’s planning commission authorized Granite Valley Forest Products to construct and operate a sawmill after hearing minimal negative feedback from neighbors at a public hearing.
On April 28, the commission invited landowners within 200 feet of the timber processing plant to the hearing where Granite Valley addressed their concerns. The commission organized the hearing due to an anticipated increase in noise on the Granite Valley campus.
The sawmill will be located near the southeast corner of Granite Valley’s main building, about 600 feet away from County Highway S. New London Zoning Administrator Paul Hanlon told the Press Star it will be approximately 700 feet from the nearest business and 1,500 feet from the nearest home.
Granite Valley will need to limit the sawmill’s noise to approximately 65-70 decibels at the property line, or about the volume of a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer.
“We have got every anticipation in the world to abide by the city ordinance, as we’ve tried to do with everything we’ve done,” said Mark Christopher, New London plant manager. “And we’ll do whatever we have to to keep it friendly to all of our neighbors.”
Christopher said the new sawmill will allow Granite Valley to control its costs by having work done in-house.
“We’re going to be buying logs all around,” Christopher said. “It’s going to give an opportunity to bring a lot more employment in.”
New London Mayor Gary Henke said at the March 31 planning commission meeting the sawmill could begin construction in spring 2017 and be in operation later that summer. Hanlon attributed the one-year delay to the time it will take suppliers to ship building materials to Granite Valley.
Hanlon told the Press Star he doesn’t know yet the square footage of the proposed sawmill or the dollar value of the project. The commission’s action April 28 was just approving the site plan for the project to take place.
The sawmill will be the second within the company. Granite Valley’s parent company Welter Forest Products also operates Rockbridge Sawmill in Richland Center. That facility produces 7 million board feet of sawn product annually, according to its website.
Neighbors Arvin Barker and Charles Millard attended the hearing and mainly asked questions about the project specifications. But Millard, who lives nearby on House Road, asked if plant operations will become cleaner. He said sawdust blows onto his property.
“When you get up in the morning, especially in the summertime, you got it below your car,” Millard said. “You certainly got to turn the windshield wipers on to clean it off, you know, with the wind coming out and blowing it your way.”
Christopher replied he wasn’t aware of a problem and it shouldn’t be occurring.
Barker asked if a railroad crossing over Highway S, which Granite Valley plans to rehabilitate in conjunction with the sawmill project, will be less noisy than one that was there in the past.
“When they had the railroad tracks in there before, every time the truck or car or anything went over that thing, it’d go ka-bump, ka-bump, ka-bump,” Barker said.” You’d hear them all day long, all night long. Are these spurs going to be [quieter]?”
City Administrator Kent Hager told Barker the city still needs to build a new crossing, as the old one was removed, and he anticipates it being quieter. Hager also took Barker’s suggestion that the city install sewer lines under the tracks before the rehabilitation project begins.
Granite Valley plans to rehabilitate an inactive one-mile railroad track along its property for the purpose of bringing in hardwood logs to the plant from out of state. In January, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation awarded New London a $384,000 Freight Railroad Preservation Program grant to replace 1,100 ties and 900 pound of ballast along the track.
Two public road crossings will also be constructed. The grant will cover 80 percent of the project costs and Granite Valley will pay for the remaining 20 percent.