When Pat Bischel heard that Muskie Proppant was encountering resistance in locating a frac sand loading plant in Eau Claire, he got to work.
The result is the sand loading facility will wind up on the property of Northern Crossarm at 11278 County X, west of the Chippewa Falls city limits.
Muskie Proppant, which has an office in Menomonie, signed a three-year contract with the town of Wheaton company last week. The contract is effective Dec. 1.
“We’ve struggled the last five years,” said Bischel, owner of Northern Crossarm, a company that sells pressurized wood to the slumping housing industry.
“This is going to allow us to strengthen the company and this is going to benefit our employees. And overall, this will allow us to weather this (economic climate),” he said.
Bischel understands that Muskie Proppant would use five rail cars a day, which would translate into 20 trucks a day.
Doug Clary, the planning and zoning administrator for Chippewa County, guessed there could be as many as 40 to 50 trucks per day.
Bischel said sand will not be stored on the Northern Crossarm site. Instead, sand would be unloaded from trucks and then loaded on a conveyor belt into railroad cars using a spur line on the Northern Crossarm property.
“They have committed to us to load their frac sand and ship it to wherever their customers are,” Bischel said.
“Our agreement makes sure that our access to the railroad traffic has not changed,” Bischel said, adding his company has been assured by Muskie that the sand loading process will not impact Northern Crossarm’s business and property.
Muskie Proppant’s initial plan was to use a site it owned on Anderson Drive on the far northeast side of the city of Eau Claire. But that plan was rejected last month by the Eau Claire City Council.
Unlike the Eau Claire location that Muskie Proppant was considering, there are fewer residences by the Northern Crossarm property. Clary said there are three residences on the backside of this site.
“I feel for the neighbors ... If it’s done correctly, they shouldn’t have dust flying around,” said Paul Krumenauer, chairman of the town of Wheaton.
He said the first time he was told that the Northern Crossarm deal had been confirmed was when a Herald reporter called him Monday.
Back on April 10, the Town Board approved allowing Northern Crossarm to create a separate parcel for the rail spur. That parcel and all of Northern Crossarm is zoned industrial.
“Because it is zoned industrial there, he had every right to do this,” Krumenauer said of Bischel.
Wheaton is one of six towns in the county with county zoning.
“They do have to go through a commercial site plan process. They have to submit a whole bunch of information to us,” Clary said of Muskie Proppant. The company must submit information on their lighting plans, screening and hours of operation.
The lighting will be covered under the town ordinance, that requires lights to be shielded and shine down, said Bud Beckwith, a town supervisor and chairman of the town’s planning commission.
“It’s not going to be well received by the people there,” Beckwith predicted about Muskie Proppant’s plans.
Beckwith said another company briefly used the Northern Crossarm site to ship sand, but that was stopped by the county zoning office because no site plan had been filed.
Beckwith said the town has been trying to decide whether to continue to use the county’s conditional use permit system, adopt a licensing system used by the Town of Cooks Valley for sand mines, or adopt an ordinance regulating sand mines modeled on one passed by the town of Howard.
Cyrus Ingraham of Muskie Proppant was not available for comment Monday on the company’s plans for the town of Wheaton site.