NORAG requests use of Marquette roundhouse area to ship soybeans by rail

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The NORAG LLC grain elevator near McGregor would like to use the city of Marquette’s roundhouse area for several months this winter in order to load and ship soybeans by rail.


According to NORAG manager Heidi Amundson, who spoke at Marquette’s Nov. 8 council meeting, the goal is to improve the area’s market for soybeans in the December through March time frame.


“NORAG is an international company. We’ve got operations all over the Midwest, plus we ship grain overseas. What we’d like to try to do is ship some of the beans from this area, in this December through March time frame, and move them to one of our other locations where we can put them in containers and ship them overseas,” she explained. 


Farmers wouldn’t have to wait until next spring to ship on the river, a mode of transportation Amundson noted was more difficult this year.


“Especially this year, with the river barges and the river being so low, the basis for what guys could get paid for their beans was really low compared to other years. We’re trying to move a few loads and see how it goes,” she said.


The soybeans would be transported from the McGregor facility along Highway 18 to the Marquette roundhouse area via semi. Amundson anticipates one to two trucks would run at a time, during daylight hours only.


NORAG would load 10 to 20 rail cars each week, each car holding three to four semi loads.


Increased traffic—both highway and rail—was the biggest concern for Marquette officials.


“My concern would be the semi traffic going in and out. There’s no turning lane there,” said council member Tracy Melver.


“That’s the other reason we wanted to do it in that time frame, when it’s not the heavy traffic,” Amundson responded. “I realize there’s a lot of river traffic in the spring, summer and fall. We want to avoid that.”


Mayor Steve Weipert wondered how the additional cars would impact railroad crossings in the community.


“People on the bench, people anywhere, sometimes sit a half hour, 40 minutes, or longer. Any time there’s going to be another train crossing the road, they get very upset,” he said. 


“I don’t anticipate there being a lot of cars, and we have to be able to get the cars, which might be a concern too,” Amundson told the council. “That would be something we could talk to the CP about, find out how exactly does this work. Are you going to have to bring in 20 cars and pull them back out, or can you just set three or four in there as we need them?”


“We want to work with you guys,” she stressed. “If we have to write something up, we obviously will, and figure out a fee structure.”


Weipert additionally questioned if allowing NORAG to use the roundhouse area would open the city up to further requests—and obligations to say “yes.” The city has also considered developing the area.


But if development is truly planned, council member Liz Gilman said action needs to begin.


“If we’re going to have plans for it and do something with that parcel of land, then we need to start moving forward, because it’s just sitting there. It’s sat there since I’ve lived here. We could get revenue for it,” she said. “To bring in revenue, I’m not opposed to it.”


“I wouldn’t be against trying it just one time to see how it goes,” added Melver.


Amundson felt much the same.


“At this point, it’s a trial period to see if we can make it all work, make it work with the farmers,” she said.


The council did not vote on the request last week, instead asking NORAG to submit an agreement and fee structure for consideration at an upcoming meeting.


Bid approved for UV wastewater disinfection

At the Nov. 8 meeting, the council awarded a construction bid to MZ Construction of Livingston, Wis., for the UV wastewater disinfection project at the sewer plant. The bid came in at $45,000—$5,000 less than the cost estimated by Delta 3 Engineering.


According to Bart Nies with Delta 3, the purchase of UV disinfection equipment also came in lower than expected, at $33,680 instead of $40,000.


“All in all, if you add $45,000 plus $34,000, it’s $79,000, and we had estimated $90,000. You’re a good 10 percent below,” Nies said.

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