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Home » Issue Areas » Lehigh and Quarrying » Newspaper Articles » 2010

Posted: Sunday, May 9, 2010 11:45 pm | Updated: 5:04 pm, Thu Apr 12, 2012.

By Carrie Ann Knauer, Times Staff Writer

The sale of a 6.7-acre plot with ball fields from New Windsor to Lehigh Cement Co. must be approved by Lehigh’s parent company and state officials before the $696,520 deal goes to settlement.

The land, located off Coe Drive and known as Seibel Fields, is the last piece that Lehigh needs for the construction of a possible rail spur that would transport limestone and aggregate from the New Windsor quarry to the Union Bridge plant.

“This is a deal that is very important for Lehigh and one that has extended over a long time, and Lehigh is happy to get it behind us,” said Kent Martin, plant manager of Lehigh in Union Bridge.

Negotiations for the sale of Seibel Fields started in the early 1990s, Martin said, and extended through four town mayors and four Lehigh plant managers. New Windsor officials signed a contract for the deal at Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting.

While the piece of land was important to Lehigh, the sale of the land was complicated by the fact that the town purchased it with state grant money from Program Open Space. County Director of Recreation and Parks Jeff Degitz said that in order for the state to approve the sale of the land, there must be a transfer of an equal or greater amount of land and recreational facilities.

To that end, the contract signed between Lehigh and New Windsor includes the transfer of 10.4 acres of Lehigh-owned land at Quaker Hill and Shepherd’s Mill Roads in Union Bridge, which will be conveyed to the county. Degitz said that land will probably be used for recreational facilities in the future, though specific plans have not been discussed.

The two baseball fields that will be lost at Seibel Fields would be made up for by creating new park space near the New Windsor fire carnival grounds, where the current sewage lagoons are, Degitz said.

Mayor Neal Roop said the lagoons will no longer be used once the town builds its state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, which is under construction and should be completed by the end of 2011. The Maryland Department of the Environment is expected to give the town guidance on remediating those lagoons and filling them over, Roop said, after which new recreational fields could be placed in that area.

Once the settlement goes through, the town will receive the $696,520, of which $5,000 had been paid as a down payment. The majority of that money would be used to remediate the lagoons, Roop said, though the town is hoping that it can get financial assistance from MDE, which would possibly allow some of the money to be used for other projects.

“Hopefully, the remediation process will go smoothly,” Roop said. “We won’t know the cost until we get into it.”

The contract also stipulates that after settlement, the town may lease the fields from Lehigh for $1 per year until the company decides to take action with the property. Until the settlement, the fields remain in possession of the town. They are used by the West Carroll Recreation Council. Roop said the town and county will work with the recreation council to discuss what facilities should be included at the proposed new fields.

 Martin said the earliest the company would be likely to want to move forward with a rail spur would be in 2015.

The contract is not going to be settled on any time too soon, however, because the state still needs to give its approval.

“We don’t anticipate any problems there,” Degitz said.

State officials have said that the transaction would need to include an equal or greater amount of acreage and facilities, he said, but that the two do not have to be at the same location.

In addition, Lehigh included a stipulation that the contract needs to be approved of by the Lehigh Capital Committee, which is a part of Lehigh Cement’s parent company, Lehigh Hanson Inc., Martin said. The committee is aware of the project and its importance, he said, but has six months to give its approval.

The contract also will not go to settlement until 2012, he said, because the company needs time to put the purchase into its budget.

“As with many companies right now, capital is very, very tight, and we have this money allotted for spending in 2012, and that’s why we need to do that,” Martin said.

The company’s first choice for moving its quarried stone from New Windsor to Union Bridge remains to be a conveyor belt system, Martin said, which is still under evaluation.

“Our goal has been and continues to be that we move stone from the quarry to the plant with the least impact on the surrounding community,” Martin said. “But for sure, rail is both technically and economically feasible for us, and is a good solution for us to move stone.”

Martin said he was glad to hear that New Windsor’s officials had signed the contract last week, but that he knows there may be other obstacles still ahead.

“The signing of this contract reflects an agreement, but also begins a process that will take some time to complete, and we’re going to continue to work with the town and the county and the state to complete this over the upcoming months,” Martin said.