Ethanol plant work not likely this year

Ethanol plant work not likely this year

CHAMPAIGN – A proposed ethanol plant in northwest Champaign likely won't be built this year, according to city officials.

Champaign Planning Director Bruce Knight said company officials have indicated they do not intend to proceed with construction this year.

A company official, Neill McKinstray, said The Andersons has not yet made a final decision to build locally but are proceeding with planning. He would not rule out the possibility that construction of the plant could begin later this year.

The proposed plant would generate 110 million gallons of ethanol annually and employ between 30 and 40 people.

According to Knight, the city's conclusion that construction won't start this year is based on the fact that The Andersons officials were asked recently if the city needed to proceed with improvements to the intersection of Staley Road and U.S. 150 this year to handle the increased truck traffic the plant would bring.

"They said 'probably not,'" Knight said. "That's what we know."

As a result, the city told the engineering firm it hired to design the intersection improvements, Clark Dietz Inc. of Champaign, to suspend its work.

Knight said The Andersons would have to pay for a portion of the $2 million intersection improvement. He said the company isn't going to pay until it definitely is going ahead with the ethanol plant project.

The state has awarded a $1.32 million grant to help pay for the intersection improvement, but to receive that grant, there needs to be a guarantee of new jobs, Knight said.

The state has indicated it will reserve the grant money through the next fiscal year, so if The Andersons does decide to proceed with the ethanol plant, the money for the intersection will be there, Knight added.

McKinstray, vice president and general manager of The Andersons' ethanol division, said a final decision to build in Champaign hasn't been made yet. Several months ago, the company said it hoped to make a final decision in December.

"There's been no decision made," he said. "We continue to move forward with the intent of proceeding."

McKinstray said the company is still awaiting a final air permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for the project and also is in the process of obtaining land options so that it can run a gas main to the plant site.

McKinstray said it is still possible construction on the plant could begin later this year. He said it takes about a year to complete a plant. The firm is finishing construction of an ethanol plant in Logansport, Ind., and expects to open a new ethanol production plant in Greenville, Ohio, in the first quarter of 2008. The company's first ethanol plant opened in Albion, Mich., this past August.

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