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Strapped by deadline, Brawley beef plant owners say construction will continue despite ongoing lawsuit

February 21, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Owners of the under-construction beef plant here say work will continue as they wait for a hearing on a lawsuit filed against the project.

Bill Brandt, an owner of the plant, said there is no choice but to continue with the building of the facility.

He said come Oct. 22 the beef plant must be ready with up to 600 employees in place. That is the day the first shipment of cattle will arrive.

Brandt said if the plant is not ready, those who have contracted to have their cattle processed at the plant will have nowhere to send their cattle.

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"We are on a deadline. We have to keep moving forward," Brandt said.

The plant is being built and would be operated by B.P. Ventures, a company in which Brandt is one partner. Brandt also is the owner of Brandt Cattle Co. in Brawley

Bill Brandenberg, owner of Meloland Cattle Co. in rural El Centro, is another partner in B.P. Ventures. Other partners have yet to publicly discuss their involvement.

Brandenberg said he shares Brandt's concerns, but added there are more critical issues to focus on than the lawsuit. He said the focus needs to be on making sure the plant is ready for operation by Oct. 22.

"It's going to impact everyone if we don't have the plant operating," Brandenberg said.

The lawsuit against the project was filed by Darwin Cohee, who owns a soil-reclamation business near where the beef plant is being built.

Cohee has said while he supports the beef plant, he is concerned traffic on Shank Road brought by the plant will make it impossible for him to continue his business.

Both the beef plant and Cohee's business are on Shank in the eastern section of the city.

Cohee said he had no choice but to file the lawsuit after the Brawley City Council voted to deny an appeal he filed with the city against the permit awarded by the city Planning Commission that allowed the project to move forward

On Friday, Imperial County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jones denied a demurrer filed by B.P. Ventures that sought to bring a quick end to the lawsuit.

The demurrer stated Cohee had failed to name B.P. Ventures as a defendant within the statute of limitations. In Cohee's initial filing he named city officials as defendants. He later added B.P. Ventures as a defendant.

Jones said he made the ruling because of "procedural" problems with the way the demurrer was filed.

That ruling means the case will move toward a hearing on the merits of Cohee's lawsuit.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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