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$600,000 loan to beef plant considered

May 20, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The City Council here will consider Tuesday approving $600,000 in loans for the beef-processing plant to cover costs associated with the facility's wastewater treatment.

The funding would include $200,000 from the city and $400,000 from the city's Redevelopment Agency.

The council meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 225 A St.

While the money would go toward wastewater treatment at the beef plant, owned and operated by Brawley Beef LLC, it is not being offered as a result of the ongoing odor issues, city officials said this morning.

The money was among the incentives offered to Brawley Beef as it considered whether to locate in Brawley.

"This was part of the incentive package that was offered by the city manager to Brawley Beef on behalf of the council," said City Councilwoman Jo Shields.

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That means the votes Tuesday — one by the council and a second by the council sitting as the RDA board— could be little more than a formality.

City Finance Director Fred Selk said in all the city's financial backing for the beef plant could add up to $900,000. That would include the $600,000 in loans and another $300,000 in federal grants the city will pursue for the beef plant.

Brawley Beef opened in December, the result of lengthy negotiations over where the plant would locate. Some of the beef plant's owners are based in Arizona and there were sites there under consideration as locations.

Brawley Beef owners have lauded the city and other agencies in the Imperial Valley for the support the project received. They have said the incentives offered proved important in deciding to locate the beef plant in Brawley.

The plant has provided some 600 full-time jobs and been hailed as one of the most important economic development projects in the Valley in recent history.

The plant has helped reduce the Valley's unemployment rate from about 24 percent to 14 percent, and Imperial County and city officials said it will attract ancillary businesses that will further aid the local economy. There also is the possibility that if the plant proves a success it could create another 600 jobs.

However, the plant has faced some controversy, most of it surrounding the wastewater facilities. Residents in the area have continued to voice concern about odors thought to be coming from the three ponds that make up the wastewater facility and they have continuously asked for action to deal with the smell.

Beef plant officials have said they are doing all they can to address the issue, adding the odors should not be a permanent issue. Brawley Beef has spent about $1 million trying to address the wastewater facility and the odors.

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

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