By LaKeshia Knarr
WOODWARD TOWNSHIP – After about an hour of discussion this evening at a special meeting, the Woodward Township supervisors gave verbal approval for Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. to soon begin excavation work on behalf of First Quality.
Hawbaker, of State College, was contracted to provide the fill for the installation of a third paper tissue machine at the First Quality Tissue plant. The new First Quality building needs to be situated above the 500 year flood plain and roughly 600,000 cubic yards of fill is needed in order to meet requirements set by First Quality’s insurance carrier.
Hawbaker planned to acquire a large portion of fill from an area south of and above the Webbwood housing development, but was denied an excavation permit request by township Zoning Officer Chris Coleman because excavation is not permitted in a residential use area.
Tonight’s township supervisors’ decision to move forward with that plan was made after they came to a verbal agreement with Mike Welch, Hawbaker director, on a number of conditions for the duration of the project.
The contractors will be required to provide dust and mud control, ensure there is no glare from any needed outdoor lighting, provide flaggers on Route 664 in the morning and afternoon in coordination with Keystone Central School District’s bussing schedule, post appropriate signage along Route 664 and Cider Press Road, and operate trucks between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“The township is really trying to accommodate the project from First Quality moving forward,” said township Solicitor Robert O’Connor. “That agreement would not be binding or set a precedent.”
O’Connor has been tasked with drawing up the written agreement based on the evening’s discussion and getting all parties signed on.
Before the unanimous vote, however, the three supervisors – Chairman Clyde Glossner, Kyle Coleman and Brian Hoy – expressed concerns regarding noise for nearby residents and safety along Route 664, Mountain Drive and Cider Press Road in the township.
Glossner also pointed to potential issues with the weight of loads and the speed of trucks, saying, “I hope you wouldn’t leave that get out of hand.”
“Our trucks are monitored from our dispatch center,” Welch replied. He said dispatch can monitor speed, idle-time and more.
In addition, Welch said Hawbaker has purchased two police cruisers for use near sites to deter travelers from speeding or making risky driving decisions.
The supervisors said township police will also monitor the area of the site and main travel routes.
Commenting on the fact that the new First Quality plant is expected to bring 184 new jobs, Glossner called it “a project that will benefit the whole community.”
“We want to see the project go, but we also want to take care of our residents,” he said.
Welch said Hawbaker is looking into the use of three or four additional sites for fill excavation so the company can meet contractual obligations with First Quality in a timely manner. He said he hopes to be operating in two locations within 30 days and to acquire the needed fill by the end of May.
One of the sites, Welch said, is behind Central Mountain High School. Earlier this month, Hawbaker representatives sought approval from Keystone Central School District to remove 150,000 to 200,000 cubic yards of fill from a hill north and west of Malinak Stadium. Excavation of that site would level the terrain, allowing the space to accommodate a baseball field.
The KCSD school board is expected to act on an agreement with Hawbaker at its regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, Feb. 2, slated to begin at 6 p.m. in the CMHS library.
Roughly 25 people attended the special meeting, held at the Woodward Township Municipal Building at 86 Riverside Terrace, including county commissioners Paul Conklin and Pete Smeltz; Mike Flanagan, Clinton County Economic Partnership (CCEP) president and CEO; Louis Anastos, CCEP Operating Board president; and state Rep. Mike Hanna, D—Clinton/Centre.
“We know what’s on the other end and that’s 184 new jobs,” said Flanagan, who said he doesn’t know of any similar-size initiatives occurring within a 100-mile radius. “It is time to move on this project. We’re losing time here.”
Smeltz echoed Flanagan’s sentiments, noting that Clinton County’s unemployment rate is around 7 percent and this project is “very important to the economy of Clinton County.”
“You know my support for the project,” said Hanna. “184 jobs is critical for this region and we really want to see this project go forward.”