LOCKPORT – Willow Creek Farms, which lost much of its inventory of wood chips and some of its wood mulching equipment in a huge Lockport fire last month, has opened a new wood recycling facility.
The Lockport Town Planning Board has approved a plan to convert the former Harrison Radiator wastewater treatment plant on Upper Mountain Road into a wood recycling center.
The Clarence-based Willow Creek already has moved its operations there after 16 years at HTI Recycling, scene of the fatal fire that took three days to extinguish.
“I had to move quickly to keep my business alive,” owner Melvin Hedges said, He said he was able to get some of his equipment out of the building at HTI before the fire destroyed it.
The facility grinds wooden pallets into chips and into animal bedding sold to dairy and horse farms, Hedges said. The wood is stored in the building and the grinders operate outdoors.
Willow Creek has a contract to sell wood chips to the City of Lockport for use in the city composting plant, which turns Lockport’s sewage sludge and yard waste into fertilizer available for sale to gardeners.
City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said the contract, approved by the Common Council last year, pays Willow Creek $12 per cubic foot as needed. This year’s budget calls for spending $100,000 on wood chips, but Pasceri said the city may not spend that much.
Douglas Sibolski, chief operator of the city wastewater treatment plant, said Lockport has stockpiled enough wood chips that it won’t have to buy anymore this year.
The HTI fire caused evacuations of numerous homes near the scene. The blaze at HTI, which specializes in tire recycling, has been ruled arson, with the suspects being two 14-year-old boys whose cases may be heard in Family Court. A third boy, Joe Phillips, 14, died in the fire when he was unable to escape a vacant former office building in which the blaze started.