A facility that will bring more than $4 million in annual economic benefits to Randolph County and the surrounding area was christened during an elaborate public ceremony Tuesday.
J.F. Allen Company celebrated the grand opening of its de-icing salt facility – which has the capacity to hold 35,000 tons of salt -with state and local officials in Aggregates.
Gregory S. Hadgis, president of J.F. Allen, said the purpose of the facility is to have the capacity to supply the entire region with de-icing salt in the winter.
“This is the first and only rail-access facility in the state,” Hadgis said. “In 2010, when the big storm came through, the Kanawha River was frozen. This was the only source of inbound salt. We were shipping salt as far south as Charleston. We sent 78 loads to Burnwell for the West Virginia Turnpike because they had nothing.”
Hadjis said the facility will save the state millions of dollars.
“We won’t have to import salt from Baltimore, and that will save 50 percent,” Hadjis said.
Construction on the 35,000-square-foot facility began in May. The trusses used in the construction are actually the same ones used for Olympic buildings, and are rated to withstand this area’s snowfall and win, officials said.
Delegate Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, said the project is a positive addition to the region.
“The state will save half of what it would cost to purchase the salt elsewhere,” Hartman said. “J.F. Allen has another profit source here as well as income for the railroad.
“It will take from now to the first of September for the railroad to fill this building up with salt,” Hartman said. “It’s going to take 55 railroad cars a week and the truckers are going to be driving salt trucks in the winter when they would normally be laid off. So it is a win-win situation.”
Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said she thinks the expansion is important for the area.
“I think it will help create and sustain jobs in the region,” Campbell said. “The facility is an amazing building. Alcon is a thriving company and they focus on trying to provide services and help us economically in our community.”
Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor agreed with Campbell.
“Today is a great day for Randolph County,” Taylor said. “This is a tremendous facility. This will improve the view shed down here.”
J.F. Allen General Manager Steve Sherrard welcomed those attending Tuesday’s grand opening. He spoke of his appreciation for the partnership of Cargill De-Icing, the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad, the West Virginia State Rail Authority and the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Sherrard said the idea for a de-icing facility was first proposed in 2005 by John Smith of the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad.
“Smith asked if we ever considered a de-icing facility,” Sherrard. “He had seen them in all the states that surround us. That is where the inspiration for this came from. After that, I visited some of those sites and I realized that all of the states were around it. We started working on our permits. It seemed a natural fit because of the central location to all of this bad weather.”
Smith said the new facility will be innovative.
“We turned the tables on procedure,” Smith said. “In building this facility we have created jobs and we have something to be proud of.”
Hadjis noted that the railroad connection will be unique to this area.
“This 35,000-square-foot building will store 35,000 tons at capacity of road salt, providing the West Virginia Department of Highways its first in-state commercial facility served by rail in North Central West Virginia,” Hadjis said.
He also took the opportunity to thank Cargill De-icing, “our partners in this venture. We are in our seventh year with supply partnership. During this time, we have transloaded and supplied more than 250,000 tons of de-icing road salt in order to improve the winter road conditions for the traveling public. Their long-term commitment to our state and willingness to invest as a partner made the construction of this facility possible. “
Hadjis also recognized Smith for his contributions, as well as Cindy Butler, executive director of the State Rail Authority.
“The salt is mined under the Great Lakes near Cleveland, Ohio, but it is transported by rail through the CXS hub in Grafton and then transferred to the Durbin Greenbrier Short Line, and on to our facility in Aggregates,” Hadjis said. “The J.F. Allen team supervises the safe travel of the salt to our facility.
“We use Alcon trucking and more than 60 independent truckers to ship the salt to 30 different Department of Highway facilities, 12 municipalities and 16 different counties. Additionally, we supply Snowshoe Resort, the FBI Center and several area colleges and hospitals.”
Hadjis lauded the economic benefits of the facility.
“Significant cost savings include savings to the city through efficient rail transportation of the product, (and) on-site source for a faster response due to an impending storm,” Hadjis said. “This was vital in 2010 when we had the big winter event and the river was inaccessible by barge, making this facility the only accessible storage facility in the state at that time.
“This is providing additional revenue sources for the State Rail Authority investment in the Durbin & Greenbrier Short Line Railroad and additional employment and winter work for our employees.”
During the ceremony, J.F. Allen Company CEO John Allen activated a conveyor belt, transferring the first stream of de-icing salt into the facility. Those in attendance then went outside the building to watch as a Durbin & Greenbrier Short Line train loaded with salt pulled up to the facility.