WILLIAMS, Ariz. — New Pac Fibre Mill has a court summons by the city of Williams after being cited for seven violations March 20. The mill has until April 30 to come into compliance with the violations.
New Pac was first contacted by the city in late November with concerns about the property being out of compliance with city codes. After the concerns were not addressed, a second notice was sent to the mill Jan. 30. The notice stated that if the violations were not corrected the city would cite the mill for non-compliance.
“In November we gave them the first notice. They just got way out of compliance with all the requirements we put on them, the nuisance stuff, it was terrible,” said Tim Pettit, chief building inspector for the city.
Violations included failure to comply with adopted zoning, nuisance, building safety and city fire codes.
Specifically, the city said the mill is in violation for accumulating machinery, debris and hazardous materials on the property; creating a fire hazard with oversized piles of sawdust, wood chips and hogged material; under exceeding the amount of required water storage available for fire suppression; keeping unstabilized log decks and digging unpermitted drainage ditches on the property.
New Pac failed to respond to the second and third notices by the city Jan. 30 and March 5.
“We gave them until March 20 to have it resolved. If they would have just done something, (but) the whole time they did nothing. On March 21 they called me and said, ‘well, we’re working on this,’” Pettit added.
By that time the citation was already in process.
“I have a citation in motion, it’s for all the abatement, illegal deck heights, illegal sawdust heights … it’s operation(s) that they’re not complying with,” Pettit said.
Pettit said a mill representative called and asked him to review the violations and he agreed to re-inspect the mill April 6.
The visit revealed that the mill had corrected three of the violations they were cited for in March.
“They’ve addressed a little bit of everything to show us but they didn’t finish everything that was needed,” Pettit said.
The three corrected violations included having a minimum of 1,000 gallons of water per minute for a two hour duration available for fire suppression at all times, requirements that log decks be kept in safe, stabilized conditions with limits on the size of the decks and permits for approved water drainage around the property.
Pettit said the mill has until April 30 to comply with the additional four violations, which include blight and nuisance, fire hazards and an additional fire code violation.
The mill is also required to have an operation plan for the city to review at its next inspection. New Pac is located within the city limits of Williams and its industrial zoning.
Following the April 30 inspection mill representatives will be in court for the citations.
If the mill does not correct the violations it could face closure. However, Pettit said the city could either negotiate in court or the mill could be placed on a probationary period in order to keep them in compliance.
According to Pettit, no prior mill owners had ever been cited for violations.
“I don’t remember ever issuing (citations),” Pettit said. “The prior owner kept in contact with us all the time — if he did any improvements or if he changed anything outside the operation plan, he called us.”
In February, the city of Williams inspected the mill after a complaint of a hydraulic fluid spill at the property. The city did two walk-throughs of the mill and found nothing.
“Without specific locations, something telling me where to look, where do I begin?’” Pettit asked after the walk-throughs. “Why wouldn’t he turn it in and give it to the EPA, that’s what I’m going to do with it.”
Current operations at New Pac
New Pac has remained closed following a suspected arson fire at the mill Feb. 5.
Mill manager Mark Chamberlain said he was uncertain when the mill would begin operations again and said he does not know if the owner plans to re-open.
“It’s not any (time) in the immediate future,” he said.
Pettit said the violations were not related to the closure of the mill following the Feb. 5 fire and said the mill can still operate.
“The arson was before we cited them,” he said. “It was in the notices. We gave them time to operate and correct the violations. March 20 was the deadline for the notice of when the citations were being issued, so they didn’t comply, but before then, they could have kept milling. We gave them that option to keep operating and come into compliance.”
New Pac property
Mill owner Rohit Tripathi’s lease on the property ends this September and Pete Baldwin, president of Platinum Realty Network in Williams, said Tripathi is interested in purchasing the property.
“The property is leased and the tenant is in good standing with the lease,” Baldwin said. “They had some city violations that were corrected. There’s an option within the lease that the tenant has the right to buy the property until the end of the lease.”
“He has indicated that he would like to move forward on the purchase sooner than later, within the next 60 days,” Baldwin added.
Baldwin said numerous people have inquired about purchasing the property.
“We’ve had multiple people express interest over the years. It’s a popular spot for a sawmill. There’s really nothing else around that would fit the bill,” he said.
If the property is purchased, the mill owner would need to be in compliance with all city codes before operating.
Mill owner Rohit Tripathi did not immediately respond to questions about the mill.