Archive for Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Powder company’s request heading to county commission

November 20, 2002

The Leavenworth County Commission is the next step for a company that wants to move its distribution center from Shawnee to a site about three miles east of Tonganoxie.

Last Wednesday, the county's planning commission approved a request for a special-use permit submitted by Hodgdon Powder Company. The firm, which distributes black powder and smokeless propellants for sport shooting, wants to move its distribution center to a 144-acre site east of Tonganoxie, at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 24-40 and 198th Street.

Linda Bohnsack of the Leavenworth County planning office, said the permit was approved on a 5-1 vote.

"There was very little opposition that evening," Bohnsack said. "There were only three people in the audience who spoke against it, and their concerns were fire and water supply."

The planning commission took steps to address the property owners' concerns by requiring Hodgdon to:

  • Install fire hydrants every 300 feet on the portion of the property being used for the distribution center.
  • Install interior sprinkler systems in buildings that contain packaging and shipping operations.
  • Restrict vegetation within 25 feet of all buildings.

"They will have to find a source of water that will supply the hydrants," Bohnsack said.

Doug Delsemme, Hodgdon's vice president and general counsel, said the company will investigate the cost of installing hydrants and sprinklers, as well as bringing water to the site. The company has no hydrants or sprinklers at its Shawnee plant.

"That's going to be part of our review of the costs and part of the business decision," he said.

Delsemme said sprinklers and hydrants might have limited effect because the propellants the company distributes burn very rapidly.

"There's not even time for a fire service to come out and put it out," he said. "The buildings are designed to collapse within themselves."

But he said the company is willing to look at the conditions.

"We're trying to make this location more efficient (than the firm's Shawnee center)," he said. "And, obviously, safety is our primary concern and always has been for our employees. If we can enhance that at a cost that is livable, we obviously will do that."

The company had one death at its distribution center in 1993, but Delsemme said the cause of the fire was never determined.

"We weren't really cited for anything, and our situation was renewed," he said. "It was an unfortunate situation."

The Leavenworth County Commission will consider the company's request at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the courthouse, 300 Walnut, Leavenworth.

The planning commission also recommended:

  • The permit be in effect for 20 years.
  • The number of employees working at the site be limited to 50. Hodgdon employs 14 people at its Shawnee center.
  • Development be limited to about 30 acres.

The company wants to construct about 39,000 square feet of buildings. Company officials have said they want to move from their Shawnee property because residential development has grown to Hodgdon's 160-acre site.

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