‘Where’s the beef’ plant project going?

Jesse Stevens

By Marcie Klomp

“My goal is to break ground and start construction before it gets too cold. The city is enjoying attention from the governor’s office about this project, and the DNR is committed to making this project work,” said Jesse Stevens of Lime Springs Beef, LLC.

Stevens and Jason Passmore of Howard County Business and Tourism updated Lime Springs Council and received a commitment from them at the regular meeting on Oct. 2.

The concept of Lime Springs Beef is new to the scene. Local beef producers can bring their stock to the facility being built at Hwy. 63. The meat will be packaged under Lime Springs Beef, LLC, but also have the farm’s name attached to it. Consumers will be able to find a trusted producer and purchase all their beef from him. Passmore told Council, “Lime Springs Beef will support 25 jobs right off the bat and pretty good paying jobs at that. NICC will assist Jesse with job training.”

Stevens and Passmore met with Iowa State Director of Economic Development Debi Durham. She was very pleased about the project. She even found an Iowa supplier to help with pretreating the waste. “Lime Springs Beef needs this equipment, so it helps us, and it helps him,” Passmore said.

Durham was so impressed, she passed it on to the governor, who in turn showed it to Chuck Gibb of Decorah, director of Iowa DNR. “The governor told him to make this happen,” marveled Passmore.

One of the biggest building blocks for Lime Springs Beef has been what to do with discharge of the slaughterhouse. It was the hopes of the business to use the city’s sewer system. That is not an option, especially after it was found levels at the sewer plant at times exceed recommended levels.

Another meeting was set up, this time with DNR. Attending were Stevens, Passmore, Mayor Barb Robinson, Casey Sebastian (sewer and water maintenance person), George Tekippe (city engineer) and from the DNR, the director, deputy director, three heads of departments and staff.

“We all sat down with the mind set of ‘How do we make this work?’” explained Passmore. As the meeting progressed, it was obvious the discharge would have to be pretreated. They settled on a workable leach field, where the leftover organic material is drained into a field.

Sewer project to cost $1.5-2 million

As long as the group was discussing wastewater, talk got around to the permit for the sewer plant, which expired in 2008. A new permit had been applied for from the DNR, but was lost in red tape, changes in management and more stringent guidelines.

City officials have been told costly changes will have to be done to the sewer plant to be within codes, but nobody from the DNR had actually said what those changes would be.

Stevens told Council, “My hat’s off to Barb. I was happy and proud to be there.” She basically told the DNR to expedite the approval process since the city knew it had to make changes at some point, it might as well be now. “They had never heard a mayor say that before,” he added.

Tekippe announced to council he had received the permit the day before, which was quicker than he would have ever imagined. He admitted the cost for getting the sewer up to code would be in the $1.5-2 million range and take two to four years to complete.

RISE grant

Another project associated with Lime Springs Beef, LLC is the paving of the gravel road from the cement at the Travel Plaza to Hwy. 63 (the one that runs in front of Eurofins).

Passmore approached the council about a Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy (RISE) Program. “It would help pave roads to Lime Springs Beef,” he explained.

He is writing the grant on Lime Springs Beef’s behalf.

The total cost of the project is about $622,500 on the 80-20 grant. That would mean the city would have to come up with $125,000 for the paving. “That’s a good return on your money,” Passmore said. “Because of Jesse’s project, you can get the gravel road at the Travel Plaza paved. This is just a resolution for you to show your support.”

The mayor asked, “Can the city’s portion be done on a TIF?” Passmore said he hoped so.

Tax Increment Financing is a way to pay for infrastructure projects. The city set up a TIF when the Travel Plaza was being built. Since the area was annexed to the city, it needed water and sewer, which is expensive.

The city took on the cost and has paid it off in yearly installments from the higher taxes received from the improved property.

In the long run, the cost of installing sewer and water to the Travel Plaza corner will not cost the city anything. After the loan is paid, the tax money will go to the city. Even if the business closes, it is still improved property, and taxes will still go to the city.

The same is true of the paving to be done at Lime Springs Beef, if a TIF is used.

The council approved the grant application.

The City of Lime Springs has shown its support of Lime Springs Beef, LLC and is trying to be proactive rather than reactive in getting its equipment updated. It still has a long row to hoe but is making progress.

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