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Bleyhl to move propane distribution operations

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The ink was barely dry on Bleyhl's purchase of Port of Sunnyside property when the parties involved paused for a photo to capture the moment. Pictured from left are Amber Hansen, port executive director; Jay Hester, project manager; Jeff Matson, port commissioner; Arnold Martin, port commissioner; St. Clair Woodworth, port commissioner; Greg Robertson, Bleyhl general manager; Claude Zehnder, Bleyhl petroleum manager and Tom Biehl, realtor.

A deal more than a year in the works came together last night when Bleyhl Farm Service agreed to buy 2.55 acres of land on Midvale Road from the Port of Sunnyside.

Wednesday night's agreement to finalize the sale means Bleyhl will pay the Port about $50,000 for the property ($20,000 per acre). Bleyhl will move its propane storage and distribution operations from its downtown Sunnyside site in the 1000 block of Blaine Avenue to the Midvale site

The new site is located off the east side of Midvale Road between Curfman Steel and the Port's industrial wastewater plant.

Claude Zehnder manages Bleyhl's petroleum division, and he says the new site will enable the company to double its propane storage capacity to 120,000 gallons.

The move is timely, as Zehnder said Bleyhl hopes to have the new storage site up and running before spring.

Farmers use wind machines in the spring to ward off frost. The machines use propane, lots of it, and Zehnder said the demand has grown to the point Bleyhl simply needed to add storage capacity.

He said Bleyhl is also seeing growth along with the expanding local hop industry, as more propane is needed to dry the crop.

Greg Robertson is Bleyhl's general manager, and he noted that residential demand has also grown, further requiring more storage. Robertson added that the fact rail deliveries of propane only take place three times a week makes it even more important for an abundant supply of propane both for current and future customers.

Under Bleyhl's current propane storage set-up, Robertson said the company would have to truck in propane if demand exceeded supply.

Robertson said the Midvale Road location is also suitable because it sits back from the roadway, easing security concerns Bleyhl has had about its downtown Sunnyside site.

The good fit was echoed by Port of Sunnyside Commissioner Jeff Matson. "We've been looking for the right customer," he said of finding a buyer for the Midvale Road site, which does not have frontage access.

Matson added that Bleyhl is a good match because it doesn't need frontage access like a retail store would require, for example.

The lack of frontage means the Port is seeking a $500,000 grant/loan package to build a private access road and a rail spur to Bleyhl's site.

Robertson said the company will invest another $500,000 to develop the Midvale Road location into a propane storage and distribution center.

The deal ensures that Bleyhl will keep its propane business in Sunnyside for the forseeable future.

Robertson said the company had considered moving to Grandview, but struggled to find a suitable site that would allow rail access away from a downtown setting.

The move to a larger site is a boon to the local Sunnyside economy in that Bleyhl will hire three new employees to work at the propane center here. Further, the company plans to expand retail and wholesale propane sales with the vastly increased storage.

Port Commissioner St. Clair Woodworth said the port is pleased to do its part to get the deal done, including seeking out funds for the private road and rail spur.

"We're happy to be able to help farmers in the area with their propane supply," he said.

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