Filmtech Corp. may be making headway in its long-delayed, $2.18 million expansion near Easton, Pa., which has been on hold because of the film and sheet maker's difficulty in obtaining state permission to change water companies. The controversy has held up groundbreaking for the polypropylene and polyethylene extrusion facility, according to Tom Walvoord, sales and marketing vice president: ``I had plans for 1995.''
Filmtech wants to build a 50,000-square-foot facility. The state contributed a loan of $560,000 to the project, which will provide 28 new jobs, according to the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.
Deborah Gownley, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in Harrisburg, said the funds probably will not be released until all local permits are granted, and even then only after another period of two to three months to settle paperwork.
Citizens Utilities Co., a private firm serving mostly residential customers based in Wyomissing, Pa., is the water provider for the site - a former wheat field.
But, Citizens is unable to meet fire insurance requirements for the building, which call for a 2,200 gallon-per-minute water flow rate, with continuing pressure of 70 pounds per square inch in its water pipes. Citizens agreed last month to cede Filmtech service to municipally owned Suburban Water Authority, according to SWA manager Robert B. Roth.
Suburban has 14,000 metered customers in seven municipalities surrounding Easton.
All that remains to be done, Roth said, is for Filmtech to receive approval from the state Public Utility Commission to switch service providers.
Roth, interviewed by telephone at his Easton office, said he is uncomfortable at the mention of the Filmtech situation.
``We are getting a little upset with the political pressure being put on us'' to provide service immediately to the Filmtech plant.
Roth would not identify those applying the political pressure, describing them only as ``local businessmen.''
``By law we're not allowed to go into that area until [the franchise right] is removed. Period,'' he said.
According to Filmtech's Walvoord, however, staying with Citizens ``would cost one-quarter of the entire planned expansion,'' because special equipment would have to be installed to boost line pressure.
Walvoord said July 10 that company President Earl Jaskol was ``in Harrisburg trying to fight this.''
``It's in the hands of the attorneys now,'' Walvoord said. ``They're getting everyone to agree on all the stuff. Hopefully, we'll have something in a week.''
Roth noted, ``We will not do anything until we hear from our attorney that this is clear. Had [Filmtech officials] done this six months ago, they'd have water now.''
But John Frazier, press secretary for the PUC in Harrisburg, said the PUC had no objection to the utility switch.
Filmtech has built a thriving business in the niche market of flocked, thick-gauged, red decorative Christmas ribbon. Most of its extruded PP product is 3-4 mils thick.
To a lesser degree, the company markets downgauged, PP diaper liners and hospital pads with thicknesses of 0.6-1.5 mils.
Interested in keeping its Forks Township work force, Filmtech had hoped to move its film business into the nearby new building. The move would separate the firm's film and sheet operations from Filmtech's sister company, J&J Flock, its flocking business.
J&J Flock needs the space now occupied by the film business, as it is ``expanding tremendously,'' Walvoord said.