Bill Watson said he'll mine gravel on his land if County M interchange falls through

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Jake Magee
April 17, 2015

TOWN OF MILTON—It's “a certainty” Bill Watson would install rail sidings and open a small non-metallic mining operation on his property if the controversial County M interchange and industrial park plans die, the developer said.

“The only way I would do it is if it appears we're not going to do anything else with the land,” Watson said. “The only reason I'd do it now is to do it in my lifetime.”

Watson has contemplated installing rail sidings and developing a gravel pit on his town of Milton land for about 10 years, but the option of an Interstate interchange and related development pushed those ideas away, he said.

Now, with discussions in limbo, Watson is weighing his options again.

The city council in March passed a motion to seek written confirmation from Watson that the interchange project would not cost the city any money or cause excessive risk.

The council hasn't received confirmation since that meeting. Communication between the city and Watson dissolved not long after the council's motion, City Administrator Al Hulick said.

Watson halted discussions after growing frustrated with limits on whom at City Hall he was permitted to speak, Watson said.

“Where we've left it is they've got a new mayor that's going in, and they'll have some changes there,” Watson said. “When they sort that out and come back to us, we'd be happy to help them.”

Mayor-elect Anissa Welch said she'd wait for guidance from the city council, but she has no plans to contact Watson about the interchange.

“If they have no further interest … this will just die as far as doing anything with Milton,” Watson said.

That leaves Watson's land ripe for sand and gravel mining—though he wouldn't want to dive in right away, he said.

He'd go through the trouble of acquiring all necessary permits and licenses—a costly and time-consuming task—to begin a small mining operation “future generations” could develop further when aggregate is worth more than it is now. In the interim, the operation would transport small shipments of gravel to Illinois.

“When you get mining permits, you have to use them or they go away,” he said. “If you had a small operation going where you send a few trainloads into Chicago, that would take care of keeping the permits active.”

If the interchange does go in, there wouldn't be any mining. Instead, Watson's land would turn into an industrial park with buildings that would employ hundreds and give $8 million a year in tax revenue to Milton, he said.

“It would have a large economic impact on that part of Wisconsin,” he said.

Town of Fulton and town of Milton residents have expressed suspicions that Watson intends to develop a gravel pit on his property even if the city sponsors an interchange.

“If I was a (town) resident, I think I would feel stuck,” Welch said. “I have compassion for the folks that live in the township because they are the ones that would be significantly affected by whatever Bill Watson does.”

Still, Watson the right to develop his property the way he wants, Welch said. Like any good businessman, he wants to see a return on his investment in the property, she said.

Watson, for his part, doesn't think it will ever come to a gravel pit.

“I think that common sense will prevail. There's just too much to be gained for everybody if things get sorted out,” he said. “It's a deal like it was made in heaven, and it's all sitting right there.”

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