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Malta OKs 24-hour work on chip plant

Move hopes to limit traffic impact of project on surrounding roads

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
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Global Foundries' Fab 8 complex in the Luther Forest Technology Park is seen from the air in January.
Global Foundries' Fab 8 complex in the Luther Forest Technology Park is seen from the air in January.

— In an effort to shorten the construction period, the town will allow around-the-clock construction if GlobalFoundries builds a second computer chip plant in Luther Forest.

A 24-hour, seven-day construction schedule will be allowed to try to get basic construction done within 18 months of the ground-breaking, Malta Town Board members decided Wednesday.

The town’s goal is to concentrate the impact of construction worker traffic on local roads — and especially residential areas — into the shortest amount of time possible. There could be more than 2,000 construction workers at the site during construction if GlobalFoundries decides to build the plant they’re calling Fab 8.2.

“The concept, which isn’t a bad one, is ‘Let’s concentrate the pain in a shorter period of time,’ ” said Town Board member John Hartzell.

The issue was settled at a meeting Wednesday, as town officials and GlobalFoundries near completion of Fab 8.2’s environmental impact review, which started this past winter.

While almost all environmental impact issues are settled, the town and the company remain apart on the critical issue of what kind of host community benefits would be offered in a separate “development agreement.”

GlobalFoundries is offering to pay for the purchase of the Brown’s Beach property in Stillwater, but some Malta officials think that doesn’t offer any benefit to their town.

On the construction traffic issue, a GlobalFoundries official said it may be possible to erect the building shell within 18 months, but only if the company is allowed to have a 24/7 construction schedule.

“There would be some intensity of inconvenience because of this,” said Steve Groseclose, GlobalFoundries’ director of risk management, sustainability and real estate. But the company would share the goal of building within 18 months, he said, because it would lead to getting a quicker return on the company’s nearly $15 billion investment. “It gets us to revenue sooner,” he said.

The 18 months would be for basic construction. Installing manufacturing equipment inside the building and testing it typically takes another two years.

Eighteen months for the building shell would be a “record pace,” Groseclose said. The construction of GlobalFoundries’ first factory, which broke ground in 2009, took closer to 24 months.

For the first fab, there initially wasn’t supposed to be overnight work, but the town Planning Board granted a number of exceptions allowing around-the-clock activity during specific phases of construction.

Town Board member Tara Thomas asked for the tight construction time frame for a second plant because the work on Fab 8.1 generated so many complaints from residents about construction traffic on Dunning Street, a county road that runs through the Luther Forest housing development.

“The construction impacts were very dramatic on Dunning Street. There were no alternatives,” she said.

Everyone agrees the impact on Dunning Street should be less during a second project, though, because two major entrances to the Luther Forest Technology Campus have been completed since 2009.

“Ever since Stonebreak Road [was completed] ... now there’s more than enough capacity between the two main drives,” Groseclose said.

“There’s a number of different dynamics why this time is going to be different,” said Town Board member Peter Klotz.

Among the changed dynamics is that there are now 2,000 people working permanently at Fab 8.1, in addition to the 2,000 or more construction workers who would build a second plant.

There have been no additional complaints about construction traffic this year, town officials said, even though GlobalFoundries this spring began building a $2 billion research and development building at Fab 8.

Company officials, while pushing hard for the needed municipal approvals, haven’t made any commitment to build Fab 8.2.

 
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