Major CR Manufacturers ADM and PMX at Odds Over Road

By Rick Smith, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Two of Cedar Rapids’s largest manufacturing employers — Archer Daniels Midland Co. and PMX Industries Inc. — disagree on closing a city street to public use that serves both companies on the city’s far south side south of Highway 30.

ADM has asked city officials to allow it convert Waconia Avenue SW from Downs Boulevard SW on the west side of the ADM plant to just east of railroad tracks on the east side of the plant into its own private, internal road.

In response, PMX, just to the west of the ADM plant, has called on the city to keep the public street open so PMX continues to have two accesses for the some 500 trucks that come to and from the PMX plant each month.

Back in 2010, ADM asked the city to close the street to public traffic and convert it into a private road for the grain processing company, without success.

Last month, the city council’s Infrastructure Committee asked the city’s Public Works Department staff members to visit with business owners and property owners who would be affected by the closure of Waconia Avenue SW.

On Tuesday afternoon, council member Scott Olson, the committee chairman, along with the city’s Public Works Committee staff members listened as PMX made its case against the Waconia Avenue SW closure.

In its report to city officials, officials for the copper and copper alloy products maker said losing access to Waconia Avenue SW as one of two routes to the PMX plant would be “intolerable.”

More specifically, PMX said eliminating access to its plant from Highway 30 on to Sixth Street SW and then quickly onto Waconia Avenue SW would hurt the value of PMX’s facility and negatively affect the valuation of the PMX plant and the property taxes generated from that valuation.

Without the use of Waconia Avenue SW, traffic to PMX would be limited to a second current access to the PMX plant off Sixth Street SW — from Sixth Street SW, west on 60th Avenue SW and north on Willow Creek Drive SW. This single access can be subject to train traffic, winter driving problems and flooding, PMX officials said.

In addition, PMX said its business comes with some danger and, as a result, the manufacturer needs to have the quickest route to the plant to remain open for firefighters and ambulances.

ADM has told the city that it will open the electric gates it would install on Waconia Avenue SW for any emergency at PMX. However, in its report to the city, PMX said depending on the “goodwill of our neighbor” does not provide adequate safety for PMX’s employees.

‘High risk’

According to the city’s Public Works Department staff, ADM plant officials have cited four reasons to close a portion of Waconia Avenue SW to all but ADM traffic.

l The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers the ADM plant a “high-risk”facility, in part because of the threat of theft of chlorine cylinders from ADM property.

l The plant also has some 500 pedestrians who forego a pedestrian bridge and cross Waconia Avenue SW each day, which can put them at risk.

l Moisture from the ADM plant can reduce visibility on the street and make it slippery during cold weather.

l Truck traffic on Waconia Avenue SW at the ADM plant site has struck an ADM utility bridge over the street on multiple occasions.

Olson said ADM and PMX both make strong arguments, which leaves the city’s elected leaders in a quandary in an era when cities strive to keep their largest employers happy,

For his part, Olson said of PMX, “They’re a major industry here. We got to take a second look at it. If this has an impact on their business, you have to take that into account.

“There’s not a win-win here,” he continued. “I think we say at this point that we’re not willing to do this (close the road)) unless they negotiate and reach a compromise. If they can’t determine a common direction, I don’t think it’s fair to put the City Council in a spot where we have to pick.”

Mayor Ron Corbett on Tuesday said the city values both ADM’s and PMX’s presence in the city, and he said the city’s decision on the Waconia Avenue SW disagreement between the two major businesses “doesn’t mean one is a winner and one a loser.”

Corbett said ADM has some “valid safety and security concerns,” but the street closure’s effect on PMX is apt to have him side with PMX now as he did a few years ago when the city discussed the matter then.

Corbett said the city has made millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements in its industrial area south of Highway 30 where ADM and PMX are located, and he said future changes might improve access points that might bolster ADM’s position on the Waconia Avenue SW issue.

“But I don’t think we’re there yet,” the mayor said.

The Infrastructure Committee is expected to revisit the issue in August and decide whether to send it on to the nine-member full City Council.

l Comments: (319) 398-8312; rick.smith@sourcemedia.net

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