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More details are given on proposed ethanol plant

By JIM MAGDEFRAU

ATKINS – More information on the conversion of the current Blairstown ethanol plant into a facility that converts waste into ethanol was given at last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Benton Development Group (BDG).

Giving information on the work planned by Fiberight was Ranae Becker, BDG executive director, who has been working closely with Fiberight since the firm bought the facility from Xethanol. Also explaining the project was Benton County Supervisor Ron Buch at the meeting held in Atkins.

The facility in Blairstown was built in 1999, and upgraded in 2005.

Becker is working on a letter of support for Fiberight from the Benton County Board of Supervisors, as Fiberight applies for Iowa Power Fund money. The pre-application was due on Feb. 1. The firm looks to upgrade the current facility so it can take waste heading for the nearby county landfill, and turn it into ethanol and other byproducts. Buch indicated Fiberight might also take over the county’s landfill.

If they can get the project going, the Blairstown facility would be the first in the nation to do this, Becker said. She said the state is very favorable of the project.

Buch added that Fiberight thought about moving the facility to Virginia, where Fiberight is based, to begin the pilot project. Now they are moving the pilot project to Blairstown because of the nearby landfill.

Buch added they could even go into the existing landfill and dig out old garbage.

“This is the best thing I’ve seen coming for a long time,” Buch said at the meeting, “if it will go.”

Buch and the BDG board also credited Becker for helping with the project and being the contact person for Benton County on this.

Craig Stuart-Paul of Fiberight gave a presentation to the supervisors on Jan. 19, saying his firm has found a way to refine post-sorted municipal waste into cellulosic biofuel. He said in his presentation that the country disposes of 103 million tons of waste each year, which could potentially yield more than 8 billion gallons of ethanol.

Stuart-Paul projected the facility could create 18 jobs directly, and 475 jobs in secondary employment.

By the end of March, they hope to start working with paper products.

More information on the Fiberight is at www.fiberight.com.

Other business

In other business at the BDG meeting at the Atkins City Park Pavilion:

- BDG looked at keeping its proposed budget the same next year, relying on $52,000 from the county, $6,850 reimbursement in foundation funds, and $6,500 in fund-raising. BDG representatives plan to meet with the supervisors about funding, with Supervisor Buch saying whenever the supervisors consider cutting its budget, BDG always pops up to the top.

- Becker has been working with the Highway 30 Coalition. A priority for them is adding two lanes from Highway 218 to Highway 21 in Benton County.

- Becker also updated the board on her work with Vinton Unlimited, Iowa Connections and Priority One. Vinton Unlimited has been working on getting a motel. Work should be done by the end of June. They are also looking at setting an “angel” investor group for new businesses. As for Priority One, they brought a prospect to BDG, but would require the county to pay $6 million up front.

- The board also heard community updates. Atkins hopes to break ground in the late fall on a new library. By July they also hope to have their water treatment facility. Keystone is working on a place for its second ball diamond. The current “B” diamond at the school needs to be moved due to an addition to the school. Shellsburg is working to expand its library. Van Horne has been working on its budget.

UPDATED February 3, 2010 11:02 AM

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