Rutland Herald (VT)
December 20, 2013
Section: NEWS

Manager recaps the year at Omya


PITTSFORD — The town’s largest taxpayer and employer briefed the Select Board Wednesday on the company’s past year and what the outlook holds for 2014. Omya Inc. had a slightly better year in 2013, compared with last year, in terms of tons of calcium carbonate shipped, Jim Stewart, Omya plant manager, told the board. However, he said, business remains flat, which coincides with the economy. But, he said, Omya “is financially strong, so please rest assured there are no worries there.”

For next year, Stewart said, not much will change with the economy continuing in a recovery mode.

“We figure a little bit of increase in tons but pretty much flat,” he said.

The plant manufactures ground and wet calcium carbonate for the paper, paint and plastics industries. (Much of what the plant produces goes into housing construction, a sector that remains soft. The paper industry has seen a decline with the switch to digital publishing).

Omya, which only a few years ago had its North American headquarters just down the road in Proctor, moved its operations to Cincinnati.

This year, Omya moved its laboratory from Proctor to Ohio, and a along with it “a small reduction in force of employees, which was unfortunate,” Stewart said. But he said that was balanced by the jobs created by the startup of the plant’s liquefied natural gas storage facility. Omya converted to LNG this year to save money on its fuel costs.

Stewart said Omya completed two other projects. An electrical sub station at the Omya East plant, or what was the former White Pigment plant, was upgraded. In addition, he said the company just finished the rail spur connecting the Hogback quarry with the plant.

Stewart also addressed the concerns of some neighbors of the plant, saying there are still too many trucks not using the designated truck route but, instead, following the residential route along Whipple Hollow Road from West Rutland.

He blamed the problem on drivers relying on the GPS display in their trucks and not paying attention to the road-limit signs.

The community issues team of neighbors continues to work with the company to address any problems they have with the plant, whether truck traffic, noise or odors.

“I certainly sit on the community issues team, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that it’s a very helpful way for people around the community to come together and let Omya know of any adverse impacts we’re hearing about,” Town Manager John Haverstock said.

Haverstock encouraged residents to contact him with any Omya-related issues.

Selectman Thomas Hooker, who is also the fire chief, thanked Stewart for the company’s support for the 65th anniversary celebration of the Pittsford Fire Department.

Select Board Chairman Alan Hitchcock and the other board members also thanked Omya for its support during Green Up Day in May.

In other business, Haverstock said he’s been able to offset an increase in the highway budget for next year, through a reduced tax burden in the general fund.

He said the increase in the highway budget is because of aggressive road improvement projects planned for the coming year. He said the bottom line is, the tax revenue raised for the draft highway and general-fund budgets combined will be level-funded at $1,757,784, the same as last year. Haverstock said as a result the town did tap the surplus in the general fund and the highway fund to make ends meet.

Haverstock said all four draft budgets (including the water and sewer budgets) have been balanced between revenue and expenses.

The budget and other items come up for a vote in March.

The town held a tax sale this week with five of the 12 properties on the list going up for sale. Two properties generated bids higher than the back taxes owed the town. The town was the high bidder on the three other properties. Owners of the seven properties that were on the list made arrangements with the town prior to the tax sale to pay their back taxes.

For the five properties put up for sale, the owners have a one-year redemption period.

Because the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fall on a Wednesday this year, the town transfer station will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

The next Select Board meeting is Jan. 8.