By Gregg Hoffmann
SPARTA – City officials have begun the process for establishing a tax incremental district for construction of an ethanol plant, perhaps starting this spring.
The City Council Finance Committee considered a plan Tuesday night. Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC (CARE) will own and operate the plant, which could cost about $80 million and employ 35 to 40 people. A group of area farmers and business people, led by Coon Valley farmer David Rundahl, formed the limited liability corporation last year.
TIF approval could take about two months, according to city officials. The plans call for $1 million in incentives for CARE.
The TIF district would consist of 85 acres CARE acquires for the ethanol plant. The land will be purchased from seven property owners for more than $1 million and is vacant except for seven houses that will be removed.
About 300 people attended a public meeting on the plant plans last March. At the time, Rundahl said the plant could produce 40 million gallons of ethanol a year from 15 million bushels of corn.
Some concern was expressed about odors from a plant, but organizers said they will install a state-of-the-art exhaust system in the facility.
In an interview last spring, Rundahl emphasized that farmers would retain control over the plant operations and that the corn for the ethanol would be purchased from farmers in the region.
Just a few weeks ago, plans for a bio-diesel plant near Cashton – about 10 miles south of Sparta on Hy. 27 — were announced. That plant will use primarily soybeans for its production. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.