WATERTOWN — Local officials are seeking federal funding to create a second entrance to the city’s industrial park and complete major upgrades to its railroad spur that would help companies throughout the region.
Working with the city, the Watertown Local Industrial Corp. and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency will submit an application for the funding for the two crucial projects in the City Center Industrial Park on South Bellew Avenue.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said last week that the city needs to find other funding sources to build the second entrance to the industrial park because it could not afford its $4.5 million cost, adding that the city’s engineering office already has completed some engineering drawings for the project.
Renzi Food Service requested the road for a five-year expansion plan that would help ease truck traffic into and out of its complex in the industrial park. The second entrance would be created by constructing a road to Coleman Avenue, near the Raymour & Flanigan plaza on Arsenal Street.
As part of its five-year expansion plan, Renzi plans to expand its administrative offices and make improvements to its truck parking lot and warehouse space at its facility.
Under the other project, the major improvements to the railroad spur would consist of creating a staging area for companies in the region that would allow them to bring their products to the industrial park and ship them by rail rather than truck them to their destinations.
Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, said manufacturers in a 50- or 75-mile radius would use the staging area to save money on trucking costs.
“It would be a huge importance for manufacturers to save money to transfer products,” he said, stressing they would cut costs by thousands of dollars.
Earlier this year, the Watertown Trust completed a separate project to relocate the rail line that will help Renzi move forward with its expansion plan that has been stalled because its food distribution center is landlocked, while that project allows for easier access for shipments of plastic resin into the manufacturing plant at Roth Industries.
The rail siding, which runs parallel to Rail Drive, completed this spring benefits both companies in the sprawling industrial center. That rail line was installed in 2000 for a business that never ended up coming to Watertown.
Manufacturers are now trucking their products down to Utica, where they are transported by rail, Mr. Rutherford said. The companies would pay a fee to use the new rail staging area, something they would be glad to do because there would be a savings over trucking them, he added.
Last week, Mr. Rutherford, city officials and David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development, talked about applying for the federal funding for the two projects during the Watertown Trust’s meeting on Thursday.
The funding would come through “earmarks” — the first time in years that Congress is using those types of appropriations in annual discretionary spending — from U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, both D-NY, who are seeking applications for community projects, Mr. Zembiec said Monday. The industrial park projects could be submitted as “one large project” or separately under two projects, he said. The deadline is Wednesday.
“We’re still working on the numbers,” he said Monday.
The application requires pre-design work and rough estimates on the projects’ costs, he said.
Mr. Zembiec said they also could apply for additional funds through the region’s Consolidated Funding Application, or CFA, from Empire State Development.