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Council 'favorable' to shaving plant

However, vote on tax abatement won't happen until next month

July 22, 2009
The Crawford County Council, meeting in special session at the judicial complex in English Thursday morning, took the first step toward approving a property tax abatement for an animal bedding shaver facility in the Eckerty area.

The council, following a presentation from Smith Creek LLC officials similar to the one they gave to county commissioners last month, said it needs to create a tax abatement policy before it can consider a request.

The county is one of only a handful in the state never to have granted a formal tax abatement.

Smith Creek's Matthew Smith initially expressed concerned that the process will take some time and won't be addressed by the council until its Aug. 11 meeting.

"We are on a time frame. If we are in the middle of August, I will have to look elsewhere," Smith said.

"I think you've got support here," Council President Jerry Brewer told Smith, "but we don't want to be rushed."

In addition to defining a tax abatement policy, the council must designate the potential plant site — 30-plus acres at the old Eckerty quarry location — an economic revitalization area. Smith Creek, which holds an option to purchase the land, first must present an updated legal description of the site.

Brewer said despite the council not being ready for a vote on the tax abatement, which would reduce the amount of tax the company would pay on physical improvements to the property for up to 10 years, "I don't hear anyone saying they're not favorable."

Jeff Roll, a Crawford County resident who would be the project and site manager, said the $3.2 million investment would produce bedding for poultry, horses, hogs, cattle and turkeys from wood shavings, and would employ 15 to 25 people at a pay rate of $10 to $30 per hour. After any abatements expired, it would generate about $40,000 annually in property tax revenue for the county, he said.

"It's not a sawmill, but it has many similarities," he said of the plant.

The facility would shave logs and blend the shavings primarily with green sawdust, Roll said. The plant, he added, wouldn't compete against existing sawmills in the county since it would use what's known as marketable low-grade logs left behind by loggers and would look to local sawmills for the sawdust.

"Our goal would be to work in conjunction with mills in the area," not to compete against them, Roll said.

The plant is expected to emit 55 to 70 tons of particulate matter annually from a stack with a height of about 60 feet and circumference of 34 inches, Roll said. The amount would be equal to about that of five to eight outside wood furnaces, he added.

"So, it's not huge or massive by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

The plant would require a minor source of pollution air permit from the Indiana Department of Environ-mental Management. How-ever, no water would be used in the manufacturing process, Smith said.

David Jones, a member of the county's redevelopment commission, which has endorsed the creation of the economic revitalization area and tax abatement, told the council that officials from Smith Creek have answered every question asked of them by commission members. He added the commission looked into Smith Creek's parent company, Koetter & Smith Inc. near Borden, and found it to be a good corporate citizen.

"We are not building this plant to sell it," Smith said, pointing to Koetter & Smith's 35-year existence.

He also invited the council to tour the Borden facility.

The council has indicated that the public will be given notice prior to it voting on any tax abatement requests. The request from Smith Creek will not need to go before the county commissioners. However, the commissioners last month voted 3-0 to give their blessing for the company to approach the council.

In another matter, the council voted 6-0 (Councilman Joey Robinson absent) to use up to $5,000 from the Orange County gaming fund to pay for mold repairs at the probation department building in English.

The commissioners, meeting in a brief special session at the same time, voted 3-0 to make the repairs and to pay for it with Orange County gaming fund dollars. Both the council and commissioners must approve any allocations of those funds.

The commissioners then adjourned.

In other business, the council:

•Voted 6-0 to approve several transfer requests.

•Voted 6-0 to allocate $17,500 from the Orange County gaming fund to either repair a highlift currently owned by the county or to buy a used one. The commissioners must still approve the allocation.

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