Janesville69.2°

GM plant is big consumer; loss will be felt all over

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Kayla Bunge
December 20, 2008
— Autoworkers aren't the only ones who'll be feeling the end of sport-utility vehicle production at the General Motors plant in Janesville.

The plant is among the biggest users of water, sewer, electric and waste services—and it still holds the title of largest single taxpayer in the city, said Jay Winzenz, director of administrative services.


"General Motors has been a part of Janesville history for a long time, and not having production at the local plant certainly changes the character of the community," he said.


Water and sewer

The GM plant was projected to consume more than 343.2 million gallons of water this year. That's about 9 percent of the city's total projected consumption.


The plant also was projected to discharge 320.6 million gallons of wastewater this year. That's about 12 percent of the city's total projected discharge.


The city estimates GM will pay $943,485 in fees for water, sewer, stormwater and fire protection in 2008. Even if the plant had consumed nothing in 2008, GM would have paid $44,373 in utility fees.


To account for the reduced revenue, the city has approved a wastewater rate increase and is anticipating a water rate increase for next year. Rate increases also are planned for 2010.


Electricity

The GM plant accounts for less than 1 percent of Alliant Energy's total sales in Wisconsin, said spokesman Steve Schultz. But the automaker is among the utility's top 10 customers in Wisconsin terms of usage.


Waste

Waste Management has hauled waste from the GM plant to the city landfill for several years, said spokeswoman Lynn Morgan.


The hauler has taken 360 tons of waste to the landfill so far this year, according to the city. That's down from 879 tons of waste in 2007 and 1,192 tons in 2006.


The current landfill disposal fee is $21.80 per ton.


Truck traffic

Truck traffic to and from the GM plant is tough to gauge, city officials said.


But when the automaker was running two 10-hour shifts a day at a line speed of about 55 vehicles an hour, there was about one truck leaving the LSI warehouse for the GM plant every minute, according to the city. That was about 1,200 round trips per day of production.


Of course, as production hours have decreased and as the line speed has been reduced, the number of trucks coming to and leaving from the plant have dropped, the city said.


Rail traffic

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mark Davis said the railroad's auto ramp facility at the plant will remain in operation even after SUV production ends at the GM plant.


The ramp is where new vehicles arrive by train and then are unloaded and placed on trucks to be delivered to car dealerships in the Midwest.


But as a result of drastically decreased production at the GM plant, Union Pacific will reduce the number of trains at the Janesville train yard from seven to two, Davis said.


Of the five fewer trains, two were dedicated to serving the GM plant and three provided indirect support to the plant, he said. The two remaining trains will serve the auto ramp facility and nearby customers, he said.


Air traffic

Ron Burdick, director of the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, said the airport never was a "big player" in operations at the GM plant.


"But when there was a need for parts that couldn't get here... GM would utilize the airport real heavily to get those parts in there," he said. "It cost more to shut that plant down than it did to fly those parts in here."


Burdick said air traffic definitely will decrease after SUV production ends at the GM plant.


Still hopeful

Winzenz said the end of SUV production at the GM plant will change the community, but many are hopeful this isn't the end.


"We're still hopeful that General Motors will bring a new product line to Janesville," he said.


"The local plant has an extremely competent and dedicated workforce. We're hopeful that General Motors continues to be a part of Janesville."



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