Million dollar building proposed to enclose sand loading operations

This illustration (looking north) shows the $1 million, 5,090-square-foot facility proposed by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad to be located along the Highway 18 bypass, where Pattison Sand Company conducts its sand transloading operations. Construction would begin this fall or in early spring.

By Correne Martin

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) proposed to the Prairie du Chien Common Council Tuesday night the construction of a $1 million building to enclose the Pattison Sand Company (PSC) transloading operations along the Highway 18 Bypass. The building would be 5,090 square feet and construction would begin late this fall or by the spring of 2014.

Ken Lucht, director of government relations for WSOR, and Beth Regan, permits and compliance for PSC, gave a Power Point presentation to the council. Mike Murphy, PSC general manager, addressed the council. Owner Kyle Pattison was also present but did not speak. No action was taken, as the proposal was informational only.

Community members John Lochner and Norma Lochner, Prairie du Chien; Ethel Drengberg; and Edie Ehlert, of the Crawford County Stewardship Project, spoke in opposition to the proposal.

According to WSOR and PSC, the goal of this facility would be to minimize impacts of the transloading operations to area residents. Since operations began at the site in the fall of 2011, complaints have been in regard to dust, noise, lighting and visual impact. This facility would address those issues by providing an enclosed negative air-flow space for control of the dust, noise, lighting and all sand transfer equipment. It would also allow for more efficient loading, with hopes that less time would be spent on the site transferring the same amount of sand.

Included in the 5,090 square feet would be a 20-foot by 130-foot railcar loadout and a 40-foot by 100-foot truck loadout shed. A floodplain plan has been developed to assure the facility would not be damaged by flood waters. Landscaping would be done to offer a visual barrier as well. City input would be considered for the landscaping and color of the building.

Lucht said a facility very similar to this is currently under construction in the village of Horicon and should be completed by the spring of 2014.

In response to previous council input about the transloading operations in the city, the WSOR and PSC representatives said they continue to review options for an alternate site. They also pointed out that the $1 million building is designed to be able to relocate to a future site once another site is feasible and fully-researched. Lucht said that could take up to four to six years.

“If we were able to find suitable land within the railroad corridor, that time would be cut in half,” he added.

Lucht said the proposal is in the engineering and design phase at this time and that footings for the facility would likely be set soon.

Several members of the council expressed their preference that these operations take place in a different location as soon as possible, and City Administrator Aaron Kramer said the city continues to help look for such a location.
A few of the citizens questioned the zoning of the property, which is riverfront, and not industrial. Kramer said this proposal would be in violation of the city’s zoning ordinance. However, City Planner Garth Frable advised that the city’s position has been that federal pre-emption rights override any city regulations.

“So we don’t have any enforcement mechanism to pursue,” Frable stated.

“The staff concurs that this is in violation of our ordinance but  they’re still going to build,” Kramer added.

The city has acknowledged in the past that its hands are tied due to federal pre-emption laws. An informal opinion from the Surface Transportation Board was sought by the city in February, but the federal entity said it would not provide that. The council decided not to pursue further counsel due to the high cost of seeking it.

Tuesday night’s presentation was requested by Kramer following a meeting with WSOR and PSC in mid-August, at which time they presented their proposal to him and city staff.

Resort Area Sales Tax

Staff provided an update on the proposed resort area sales tax and also recommended a public information meeting on the tax be held in September. A meeting will be set for either Sept. 19 or 26. No action was taken.

St. Feriole Island Streets

Staff presented a series of proposed street removals from the St. Feriole Island to the public works committee in August.

Action Tuesday night included unanimous council approval that the following streets be removed: 1) Roulette, from 2nd Street to Villa Louis Road; 2) Fisher from 4th Street to 5th Street, with a bicycle/walking path replacing the street; and 3) Brisbois from 2nd Street to Villa Louis Road, with 4th Street from Fisher to Bolvin being closed to through traffic by barriers that could be removed for special events and other necessary traffic situations. The Committee will review the issue again in the spring of 2014.

According to Kramer, these streets will be removed this fall, but they will not be vacated, which means they will stay on the plat map. He added that the biggest reasons for the removal are the cost of fixing the deteriorating streets and the low amount of traffic volume.

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