By Dan Hust
LIBERTY Despite rumors to the contrary, the Village of Liberty Planning Board is not standing in the way of the red meat processing facility planned for Willow Lane, said Dan Ratner Sr.
“There’s nothing that’s been stalled at all,” he affirmed. “... It’s just normal red-tape bureaucracy.”
While Ratner, a planning board member and Mayor Richard Winters’ liaison to the project, pointed out he doesn’t speak for the entire planning board, he said the slaughterhouse project has only been broached with the board preliminarily.
“There are no plans that have come to us yet,” he explained. “... They’ve only come before the planning board twice, because they’re still in the planning stages.”
But, he added, “there were all kinds of issues discussed.”
Many of those issues have to do with the steep terrain. While the location has hosted industrial uses before, stormwater runoff has plagued the area, and the village, said Ratner, is eager to avoid exacerbating the issue, especially with the sewer plant next door.
As a result, the county Industrial Development Agency (IDA) the project’s overseer will be upgrading Willow Lane, he explained, and it’s gained Liberty’s blessing to use an old dechlorination tank for stormwater control purposes.
“There is no problem with us right now,” Ratner remarked. “They and their engineers have to solve a drainage problem.”
Ratner added that many people have worked collaboratively to see the project realized, despite years of hurdles.
“We’re working so hard to make the county and village a better place,” he said.
“The planning board and village were always trying to help,” confirmed IDA CEO Allan Scott.
Legislator Jodi Goodman, who lives in Liberty, brought the parties together over the past few months to ensure a smooth process.
“Dan was a delight to work with,” she related. “The planning board worked very closely with me, and he really took down walls to move this project forward.”
County Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon agreed. While he thinks a spring groundbreaking date is “optimistic,” he seems certain the slaughterhouse will begin construction this year.
“The facility itself is expected to produce three to five full-time jobs, but its indirect impact on job creation will be much greater,” he said. “It is estimated that the facility will benefit 200 farms, creating at least 50 new full-time on-farm jobs and retaining at least 200 livestock production jobs.
“The economic benefit of the facility will reach even farther, spurring the development of a number of ancillary businesses including niche farmers’ markets, trucking and delivery services, all of which will produce additional employment opportunities.”
The total funding is already secured, he added.
“[This] will not only strengthen our livestock industry,” Aragon concluded, “but also re-establish Sullivan County as a regional hub of agricultural activity.”