City schedules public hearing March 23 on LSC Communications request to close Springfield at Industrial for $2M addition

P&Z Commission hears formal pitch describing economic impact printing firm has locally, need to replace aging press equipment

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 2/26/20

New printing presses will require a taller building. A new building will require LSC Communications to build on what are now sections of two city streets — Springfield Road and Industrial …

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City schedules public hearing March 23 on LSC Communications request to close Springfield at Industrial for $2M addition

P&Z Commission hears formal pitch describing economic impact printing firm has locally, need to replace aging press equipment

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New printing presses will require a taller building. A new building will require LSC Communications to build on what are now sections of two city streets — Springfield Road and Industrial Drive.

Appearing Monday before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, LSC Communications representatives Rich Dunn, vice president of manufacturing, and Jeremy Perkins, operations manager, presented proposals seeking city approval for the vacation of portions of both roadways adjoining their property to build a 60,000-square foot addition onto the west end of the existing plant.

It’s the first step in the process for LSC Communications officials who have been working the city’s engineer for the past year. Planning and Zoning Commissioners will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. March 23 to receive comments. This hearing will be held at the Owensville Lions Club in anticipation of a large crowd.

There will be no votes taken at this hearing.

P&Z members are tentatively scheduled to meet again in March on the following Monday (March 30) at which time those advisory board members could make a recommendation for Board of Aldermen consideration as early as April 6.

Requests such as this require 14-day waiting periods after a public hearing, where additional written comments may be made in favor — or opposition of — a proposal, before P&Z members make a formal recommendation.

Then, after another 14-day waiting period, again for additional public comments, aldermen may cast a deciding vote (for, or against).

P&Z members and aldermen will meet together on March 23 as the city will attempt to “get all the stakeholders involved,” said Mayor John Kamler, who was presiding over the planning board Monday in absence of chairman Tom Lahmeyer who was ill.

Dunn said their plan for building a 200-by-300-foot building with local contractors is estimated to be a $2 million investment to help secure the future of 749 jobs — 422 of which are full-time positions.

LSC is “landlocked on that (west) end,” Dunn told P&Z members. Access to building on land north of the old Rock Island railroad tracks is limited, he said, by the inability to gain permission from Ameren Missouri to build on existing right-of-ways for the railbed.

Dunn said Ameren officials told LSC they could not grant easements or alterations to the railbed until after it is formally accepted by State Parks.

There are also numerous fiber optic lines installed in the easement behind the plant.

Dunn said LSC seeks to replace the oldest of their nine web presses over the next five years. The newest unit is 20 years old. The older units range from 30 to 40-years-old. The oldest won’t be running in 10 years he said.

“Most assets are 30-years-old. Many are 40,” Dunn said. “Many are reaching obsolescence.”

As LSC acquires updated presses, which have increased height requirements, they will be installed in the new building.

“We are going to have to have the addition for our new assets,” said Dunn. “The driving force is the need to reinvest.”

Dunn noted that LSC Communications payroll was around $20 million in 2019 — an estimated $22.8 million with benefits.

The industrial printing firm known for book products and textbooks paid in $315,000 in property taxes last year. The firm owns nine buildings in the area for printing and materials storage.

“Short of doing this, we’ll bleed a slow death,” Dunn added.

Perkins, who said he hoped he had 20 years remaining in LSC employment, told the group at City Hall that the current building, and any idea of building out on the north side, were not conducive to their workflow needs.

“If we had a better option we would do it,” said Perkins.

Dunn noted an LSC plant in Mattoon, Ill., about three and a half-hour away, was closing on 750 employees. LSC on Jan. 14 announced plans to close their plant on U.S. 45 in July. The plant turned 50 in 2018.

He told P&Z members he could hire 50 new employees now.

“If I had 50 new employees, I’d hire all 50 them today,” he said. He said he hopes to lure many of those from Mattoon to Owensville.

“Printing is not a growing industry,” said Dunn. “It’s not a stable industry. We’re trying. We’re growing. We’re holding our own. We need to expand and add new assets. We need to be a 500-person workforce full time.”

There were concerns expressed

John Paul Quick voiced concerns about the potential for decreasing property values on property located on a dead-end road. He also expressed concerns about emergency responses to the school complex using Old Highway 19 north of the railbed.

“We need a road,” said Quick who owns land adjoining LSC.

Dunn and Perkins said their proposal includes an emergency access road for fire, ambulance and law enforcement responses to the north. Fire officials, said Dunn, were responsive to their proposal. LSC would also work with neighboring Jahabow to offer them access across the printer’s land, allowing them to connect with a nearby wood products facility.

Mike Yamnitz, whose family ran an concrete plant locally for generations and owns the post office building, shared a conversation he had with the late Milford H.H. Winter.

The community’s benefactor, Winter had talked about the successes of area communities with the development of the local railroad. Rosebud was situated on a coast-to-coast U.S. 50 corridor and a railroad. Gerald and Bland had similar success as rail communities. Owensville was situated on a gravel road until the 1950s before a paved highway 28 came through.

Owensville’s development, he recalled Winter telling him, “was because people put their community interests above their own.”

He concluded telling P&Z and elected officials present, “we need to back the plant and make their life easier to keep them here.”

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