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Wysox Motel Springing to Full Size in Matter of Days

You might say a new motel coming to the area, tentatively known as RiverStone II, really stacks up to the competition. On Tuesday morning, a huge crane began lifting finished modular units weighing as much as 63,000 pounds into place.

The typical unit is comprised for four rooms, and each is essentially furnished, carpeted and ready for occupancy once they are tied into place. Not all are room units. There are hallway units and the central lobby—the first to be put in place front and center around 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Sitting behind its namesake, the RiverStone Inn in Wysox, the only thing that will put it on hold is bad weather, and a snowstorm was on its way for the next day.

"We are expecting that we won't be able to do much tomorrow," said Scott Hope, General Contractor and owner of Silver Maple Homes, Inc., in Dushore. "We want to get the first section finished and weathertight before the bad weather comes."

All 27 modular units had to be trucked from Pine Grove, PA, where they had been constructed according to engineering specifications by Pleasant Valley Modular Homes. It is the new wave of construction as the technology for modular construction continues to improve. At the end of the day Monday of this week, there was nothing there but foundation. In three or four days, you can have a full-blown motel—two stories comprised of 40 rooms—spring up to full size.

That is because all of the construction is done elsewhere in units and then all you need is the right equipment and a contractor who knows what he is doing to put it all together. That contractor is Hope, and he was clearly enthused as they began what they call "stacking the units" Tuesday.

"This is the biggest I've ever done," said Hope, whose experience has been with mostly residential construction, as we watch the towering crane drop a unit of four rooms right next to the lobby unit. The crane is provided by Lane's Cranes in Moosic, PA, and Hope noted that it cost $475 an hour for that piece of equipment and its operator—and that's if you don't have to rack up any overtime.

All those units, by the way, were constructed in just six weeks in Pine Grove with the combined efforts of about 100 employees.

Gregg Murrelle is Operations Director for the entity behind this new motel, Four Friends Development, Inc., as well as the RiverStone Inn and the Comfort Inn just down the Golden Mile. These additional 40 rooms bring the total room count for the three facilities up to 107. Four Friends Development also oversees 14 rental properties.

"I've already got some of the rooms rented before it even opens," said Murrelle, who expects the motel to start filling its rooms by the end of April. "This is one of the positive things about the gas business and when the hotel business is booming that means people are coming into the area."

Murrelle, who is also General Manager of the Comfort Inn, said a lot of his rentals are long-term, even at the motels.

A reporter for Time magazine was in the area this week, working on a story about the impact of the Marcellus Shale and the changes, positive and negative, it has wrought, and Murrelle was supposed to be meeting him at the RiverStone late Tuesday morning. He chuckled when it was suggested he might be featured in the publication.

"I think they are interested in what is going on here because we have been insulated from the recession because of the gas business," he noted.

The new hotel will mean more jobs for the area, and a sign at the Comfort Inn proclaims, "Now Hiring for New Motel."

Excavation at the site and laying the foundation started back in December of last year. Not long after that, with the design plans approved, they started constructing the modular units in Pine Grove. Meanwhile, across the river in North Towanda, another motel is springing up and that too will be hiring new employees.

"None of this would be happening if it weren't for the gas boom," Murrelle pointed out.

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