A $15 million state grant will accelerate Green Bay’s effort to move the C. Reiss coal piles away from downtown – Green Bay Press Gazette

GREEN BAY – A major state grant will accelerate Green Bay’s effort to move the C. Reiss coal piles to a site near the mouth of the Fox River.  

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday announced Brown County will receive $15 million via the Neighborhood Investment Fund Program to help move the C. Reiss Coal Co. operation to the former site of Wisconsin Public Service Corp.’s Pulliam Power Plant and expand Port of Green Bay operations.

“I’m very glad to be here today to finally move forward on this project once and for all,” Evers said, noting the grant helps “connect the dots” on a complex project. “We need to make investments today to make long-term sustainable growth for tomorrow.”

The $15 million is unlikely to cover all costs related to moving the coal piles off 35 acres of prime riverfront property south of the Mason Street overpass. But it could mean the county begins costly site improvements on the Pulliam Plant property in preparation for that move, said Dean Haen, director of the Port of Green Bay.

The amount of funding caught Brown County Harbor Commission Chair Tom Klimek off guard when Haen told him about it.  

“Holy! … I thought it’d be $8 or $10 million. This is unbelievable!,” Klimek exclaimed when Haen told him the county received the maximum amount allowed under the

Haen’s unofficial estimate has been that moving the coal piles could take a decade and cost $20 million-$25 million to complete. The county is currently interviewing engineering consultants who will determine the scope of work needed to prepare the Pulliam site for use as a port facility and to house the coal piles. 

The Brown County Board of Supervisors last year agreed to pay $2.7 million for the power plant site. A Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Idle Sites Grant provided $500,000 toward the purchase. 

“It’s really surprising and hard to fathom that it’s coming together as quickly as it is,” Haen said. “We’re very thankful to the community, state and the federal support for this project. For us to pull off this once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s happening quickly here.” program.

The funds are part of nearly $650 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that Evers set aside for community building and recovery efforts. State officials received more than 200 applications seeking more than $900 million for community investment projects. 

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich said the funds will enable the region to complete a “once-in-a-city’s-lifetime” project. He added that port expansion and coal piles relocation would not have been possible if city and county taxpayers had to bear all the costs.

“Federal funding via Gov. Evers really makes this project possible,” Genrich said.  

‘The dominoes that needed to fall’

While Brown County focuses on site infrastructure and development, the city of Green Bay has stayed in regular contact with representatives of C. Reiss Coal Co. and its parent company, Robindale Energy. 

Genrich said there had been little to talk about, though, until the community could fund the improvements that would be needed for C. Reiss to consider moving its operations. 

“These are the dominoes that needed to fall,” Genrich said, referring to funding for port improvements. “This kicks those discussions into high gear.”

C. Reiss representatives did not attend Evers’ check presentation Thursday, but the company thanked Evers in a statement for funding “to help make the Pulliam site development project possible.”

“We look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions with Brown County and the city of Green Bay for the relocation of our Mason St. dock operation.”

Genrich said the city has preliminary plans for use of the 35-acre C. Reiss site. He said the northern 10 acres would be converted into a mixed-use development with river access while the southern 25 acres would be targeted for light industrial uses that fir the the industrial traffic on the Fox River and land use south of the site. 

In addition to the $15 million state grant, the county also received a $1.1 million Harbor Assistance Fund grant and continues to pursue federal grants for costs related to the project.

It intends to apply for a U.S. Port Infrastructure Development Program grant by the program’s May deadline. Haen said the program’s minimum grant is $12.5 million.   

The money from the state will be needed to convert the former power plant site into a state-of-the-art port facility with convenient access to rail and interstate highways. Haen said there is a rail spur just off the property the county purchased last year that easily could be extended onto the site. 

The state grant would not only help the county fund the engineering work, but would help pay for the site improvements engineers will identify, including: 

  • A new sheet piling wall to create docking facilites.
  • Dredging the area from the navigation channel to the site.
  • Filling in an existing ship slip on the Pulliam site.
  • Installing new mooring features for ships.
  • Lighting, fencing, road work and utility improvements.

The county in 2021 also approved a letter of intent to sell about 9.7 acres of the Pulliam property to GLC Minerals LLC, a processor of calcium carbonate, magnesium and gypsum products for use in industry and agriculture. GLC will pay $876,000 for the property and would invest $7.5 million to expand its processing capabilities.

$9.7 million for affordable housing 

On Thursday Evers also announced Neighborhood Investment Fund grants of $4.7 million to the village of Ashwaubenon to support construction of 75 units of affordable housing there and $5 million to the city of Green Bay to support new housing initiatives and a community development site. 

The Ashwaubenon grant closes a funding gap in General Capital’s plan to build 75 units of affordable senior housing on Mike McCarthy Way. Milwaukee-based General Capital proposed the project in fall 2020 and secured WHEDA tax credits to finance the three-story building. General Capital and village officials said the grant means construction can start this year on the property, which will have 63 units set aside for seniors that earn less than 60% of the county’s median income to go with 12 market-rate rental units. 

Ashwaubenon Board President Mary Kardoskee said the village gets calls weekly, if not daily, asking for senior housing but the village falls short in its efforts to get the grants needed to build affordable senior housing. 

Green Bay’s $5 million grant will be used to develop a mixed-use, mixed-income housing development on 25 acres JBS Green Bay donated to the city last year. Green Bay tentatively plans to develop housing, a destination playground and an urban farm on the land located between Lime Kiln and Guns roads, on the city’s east side. 

The money would help pay for the public improvements and site preparation. 

Contact Jeff Bollier at (920) 431-8387 or jbollier@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffBollier