By Dan Hust
LIBERTY Two meetings last week indicated that there’s more work left to realize a red meat processing facility in Liberty if only in gaining the faith of some politicians.
Industrial Development Agency (IDA) CEO Allan Scott told the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board at its Tuesday meeting that a groundbreaking on the slaughterhouse could come later this year, but Village of Liberty Mayor Richard Winters indicated at the prior night’s village board meeting that drainage issues may hamper the site’s development.
“The drainage down there,” Winters said of the Willow Lane location, “is not going to work, no matter what they do.”
He added that the village is fully behind the project and isn’t standing in its way, but he worried that the old chlorination tank Liberty gave to the IDA is uphill from the drainage issues it’s intended to help resolve.
At the next day’s EDC meeting, County Legislator Leni Binder shared her own concerns.
“You still can’t say it’s definite, it’s going,” she remarked to Scott. “You now have a nebulous ribbon cutting date.”
She lamented that an offer to temporarily utilize a mobile processing facility was never taken, but Scott replied that the Agriculture Local Development Corporation which at the time was overseeing the slaughterhouse’s development wasn’t supportive of the temporary facility idea.
Forestburgh farmer Stuart Salenger recently spoke to a high-level federal government official who confirmed that the county’s rejection of the facility led the feds to locate it upstate, but IDA Board Chairman and Legislator Elwin Wood said that’s the first he’d heard of the situation.
“As I understand, the farmers themselves weren’t supportive of it [the temporary facility],” County Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon pointed out due to the plant’s reported inability to cut meat to marketable sizes.
Plus, he added, hooking it up to water and sewer facilities and making it operational would have cost around $100,000.
“I don’t recall it ever coming to the Legislature for us to say, ‘Let’s find a grant to help hook it up’,” Binder replied, lamenting that the county too often finds itself behind on innovative initiatives.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis, however, said that the $800,000 federal grant acquired last year crucial to the permanent facility’s creation would have been in danger of going to another project if the county had already had a temporary facility in place.
“Rather than get a half-done project we couldn’t afford, we stayed the course,” he said.
“But that’s not moving,” Binder retorted. “That’s my frustration!”
“It is moving,” replied Wood, who said the upcoming flyover to accurately assess the site’s terrain couldn’t have happened any sooner, due to the weather and the season.
Like the meat farmers waiting for the slaughterhouse to be completed, Binder said she hopes her worries are unfounded.
“I’d like somebody to point the finger at me in two years,” she remarked, “and say, ‘See? Ye of little faith!’”
Salenger recommended a consulting firm be hired to help move the project forward, but the EDC Board took no action.
In the meantime, IDA officials continue to insist that the red meat facility’s plans are on track and that the significant drainage issues can be resolved to both the village’s and state’s satisfaction.