Neighbors of GM plant prepare for sudden quiet

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December 18, 2008
— It's never easy saying goodbye to a good neighbor.

But the hope is for a new neighbor who will take pride in their property, be friendly and care about others in the neighborhood.

That's happening on a big scale in Janesville.

People who live near the General Motors plant will bid a fond farewell Tuesday to more than a thousand workers when they walk out of the 90-year-old plant for the last time.

For one West Delavan Drive neighbor, that friendship spans decades. Her late husband walked to work there every day for 40 years.

"It was handy for us," said the woman, who asked that her name not be published.

GM has been a good neighbor, she said.

"I don't have no complaints. Once in a while, it would get kind of noisy in the middle of the night when they were snow plowing. But it got to where we didn't even hear the train after living here so long," she said.

The woman, however, is concerned about who will maintain the property across the street from her house after SUV production ends.

"I wonder what's going to happen to the sidewalk and mowing the grass? It will bother me if they don't take care of the building," she said.

Denise Cookson, 55, said the neighborhood will be quieter and getting in and out of her driveway at 632 W. Delavan Drive will be easier without the plant operating in full swing.

But she expects that without the GM workers and traffic, the neighborhood where she has lived for 33 years will be like a "ghost town." She said having GM as a neighbor always made her feel safe.

"There was always somebody going by, always cars. I'm going to miss it and the security of having people around all the time," she said.

Cliff Frederiksen, 32 W. Delavan Drive, said GM has been a "terrific neighbor with virtually no problems." But he fears neighboring businesses will close because of the loss of GM employees as customers.

"When you take this sort of economic muscle out of the area, it's going to affect me in terms of the subsidiary businesses all around that are going to really get hurt."

Frederiksen said the plant has become noticeably quieter in the past year, especially when shut down a few of times.

"It's a little weird to see nobody in the parking lot," he said.

The plant is on the other side of Charlotte Miller's backyard fence at 1109 Cherry St. where she has lived for 50 years.

Yet she's never heard any noise coming from it, "just the trains when they are switching (cars) and hauling parts in," she said.

Another Cherry Street neighbor since 1986 thinks it's going to be "very, very quiet" without the trains coming in and going out of the plant.

The woman, who didn't want to be named, is concerned about the crime potential once SUV production ends.

"If they don't have somebody watching the place," she said, "there will be a lot of vandalism."

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