A water bottler is on track to begin operations by Feb. 28 at its new 180,000-square-foot plant on Watershed Road and should be hiring employees soon, a company official said.
C G Roxane, a California-based bottling company, has spent more than $30 million to build its sixth U.S. bottling plant in the town of Johnstown.
C G Roxane’s project has not been without problems, however. It still has no power. The company needs 13.2 kilovolts of electricity, which would be provided by a power line running west to east from Highway 298. National Grid has yet to string a power line along 42 wooden poles along Watershed Road, and the clock is ticking, said project engineer Gilles Romet.
Approximately $15 million in equipment used to process, bottle and package the spring water is set to arrive at the plant shortly, and the company needs power to test and calibrate the equipment before the launch of operations next year.
“It is a nightmare to not see anything progressing,” Romet said.
Despite the lack of power, the construction project has proceeded on schedule. Contractors took about six months to build the plant on former undeveloped and private land that borders both the Canajoharie and the city of Johnstown watersheds.
When it is operational, the plant will bottle approximately 300,000 gallons of spring water per day from Johnstown. It will have the potential to expand capacity based on demand, said project engineer Gilles Romet, and the company may also buy spring water from Johnstown. It is projected to employ 50 people over three shifts when at full production.
C G Roxane is stepping in as a major customer for the village of Canajoharie following the departure a few years ago of Beech Nut’s manufacturing operations to a new facility in the town of Florida. Beech Nut had been using nearly 1 million gallons of Canajoharie-supplied water per day to make baby food.
The issue with the power came up late in construction cycle, Romet said. In October, the company learned it was responsible for obtaining easements along the route of the power line. Romet called this information a surprise, as C G Roxane had been working with National Grid for more than a year prior to the project launch.
“It is difficult for me to understand. We started building the plant in July and got the design drawings [for the power line] in October. That is when we learned we had to get National Grid’s easements,” he said.
C G Roxane paid for the design work and had thought National Grid would obtain its own easements. Property owners grant easements in perpetuity for a nominal fee, generally $1.
Romet said he has spent the past two months contacting property owners along the right of way, seeking easements Fortunately, the village of Canajaohire controls 95 percent of the right of way and quickly granted the easement. National Grid secured the easement of a second property owner. Romet is ready to sign a legal document with a third property owner on the final easement.
This owner had to seek permission from two other co-owners with whom he has disagreements; this has slowed down the process. The property owner also did not want to accept $1 for the easement, requiring a special arrangement between C G Roxane and the owner. National Grid’s terms of easement cannot be modified, Romet said, thereby requiring the outside agreement and the involvement of a cash settlement. Romet would not discuss the agreement terms but said the property owner is getting more than $1 for his rights.
“This has nothing to do with National Grid. It is with the owner,” he said.
National Grid will start installing power poles once it has all the easements in place, said company spokesman Patrick Stella. He said the company’s policy is to make the customer, C G Roxane in this case, responsible for collecting easement rights when a project benefits just a single customer and not the entire power grid. “We are working with them and we are on target to providing them with power for the first quarter,” Stella said.
Romet said he has built bottling plants all over the world and never experienced a situation as he did in New York where he had to acquire easements.