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Poultry plant draws focus back to city wastewater

Project could help push treatment plant updates forward

By Kate Hayden

A proposed poultry processing facility has Charles City looking twice at the town’s wastewater treatment capabilities.

Beef and poultry producer Simply Essentials LLC is considering opening an $31.2 million project at the former poultry processing facility on 901 North Main Street, Tim Fox, executive director of the Charles City Area Development Corporation told the Charles City Council at Monday night’s workshop. The company is applying for a .8667 property tax exemption for seven years from the city, and expects to add 254 jobs to the community. Simply Essentials has been considering opening a Charles City location since July 2015, Fox told the Press.

The processing potential of 330,000 birds a week at startup made some council members question the city’s ability to process wastewater runoffs.

“We’re looking at ways to help mitigate the impact for the initial startup, it looks like we should be in a pretty good place to handle wastewater expansion from that point,” City Administrator Steve Diers told the council. “(It) goes hand in hand to a certain extent of what we’ve been working on, which is our wastewater facility plant, updating the plant. It’s been no secret that at some point Charles City wastewater plant is going to have to modernize and do something. This may be the project that helps accelerate that.”

Charles City has had multiple previous poultry processors at 901 North Main Street, Diers told the Press on Tuesday, at some point drawing attention from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for releasing too much effluent into the Cedar River. Too much waste product becomes difficult for the dated wastewater treatment plant to process, Diers said, which allows too much by-product waste to seep into natural waterways.

“(We want to) make sure we can handle what they give us,” Diers said. “We’re reviewing that right now. I think we’re going to be able to, but you want to look at the long term. This was something we set up in the budget that starts in July, working on a facility plan for the wastewater treatment plant.”

“It’s going to put an additional strain on this (system),” Diers added.

The city’s licensing agreement with the Iowa DNR requires the city stay under certain levels of grease and other by-products of chicken processing. After prior facility owners exceeded DNR levels, both the facility and the city were fined, City Attorney Ralph Smith said.

“It was kind of a warning shot. We obtained control over a testing area within the plant so we could go out (and track it) from day to day,” Smith said.

The last facility owners closed the plant in 2011, Diers said.

The city council also heard that 34 of the jobs created by Simply Essentials will qualify under Iowa’s High Quality Jobs program, which requires a minimum wage of more than $13.93 an hour.

The total tax exemption evaluation Simply Essentials is requesting calculates to $41,818, Fox told the council on Monday.

The processing facility at 901 North Main Street is listed under Cedar River Iowa Realty for $8,000,000, with over 64,000 square feet of production, storage and staging space.

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