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Cass County still negotiating with Ethanol plant officials

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Update 12:10-p.m.: Resolution of Intent approved)

The Cass County Board of Supervisors today approved a Resolution of Intent to enter into an agreement with Elite Octane, LLC, with regard to the proposed ethanol plant for the northern side of Atlantic. The action follows a public hearing held in the courtroom at the Cass County Courthouse, during which mostly favorable support was heard.

During the hearing Board Chair Gaylord Schelling said from the County’s perspective the process of working with lawyers and ethanol plant officials, was a “Learning curve.”

(He said both sides had to come to terms on an agreement they could live with. Initially, Elite Octane wanted money up front, but the Board couldn’t agree with that. A TIF District was set up, with the tax amounting to about $900,000, depending on the levy. The agreement would mean Elite with rebate 50% back to the County to pay off the TIF.)

The TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is there to help the County pay off the infrastructure the plant needs (Gray water supply, a paved road from Echo to Olive Street. The funds are also to be used for Attorney’s fees to set up the agreement. Other facets of the agreement would include a guarantee to the County of payment in the event of a catastrophe.

Cass County Auditor Dale Sunderman explained the TIF will only work if there is a minimum assessment, which the Development Agreement would stipulate is $32-million dollars.

The property is currently assessed at approximately $1.5-million, which means a guaranteed assessment of $33.5-million. The agreement is 50-50, which means it would guarantee $900,000 per year in taxes would be paid by the company to the County for the infrastructure improvements and debt service, regardless of whether the plant fails or succeeds. The investors would be on the hook to pay those funds.

Developer Don Sonntag said in addition to the promised jobs and tax benefit to the County, Atlantic Community Development, LLC has purchased 14 acres of land from CADCO on the south side of the highway near the plant, for manufacturing space and valuable added-commodities. An announcement on more specifics will come in the next week or so. Cass County Supervisor Mark Wedemeyer said they have spoken with other counties with an ethanol plant, and the deal Cass County was working out with Elite Octane, was incomparable, because of the scope of the agreement.

The County can also hope to recoup some of the infrastructure costs at the onset, through a RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) grant.

Here is the Resolution of Intent:

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-040  Resolution expressing intent to provide economic development support to the Elite Octane, LLC ethanol plant development project

WHEREAS, Elite Octane, LLC (the “Company”) has undertaken the development of  an ethanol plant (the “Project”) on certain real property (the “Property”) described on Exhibit A hereto and proposed to be situated in the Amaizing Energy Urban Renewal Area (the “Urban Renewal Area”) in Cass County, Iowa (the “County”); and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County provide financial support to help to defray the costs of the Project, through a series of incremental property tax payments (the “Payments”) to be derived from the Property for a period of fifteen (15) years; and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County undertake the planning, design and construction of certain road and grey water sewer system improvements (the “Public Improvements Project”) necessary for the development of the Project; and

WHEREAS, the County intends to support the Company in the undertaking of the Project by entering into a development agreement (the “Development Agreement”) and making provision for the funding of the Payments; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors will need to undertake the statutory processes for (1) approving the support to the Company and including the entirety of the Property under the plan for the Urban Renewal Area, (2) authorizing the Development Agreement and the Payments; (3) undertaking the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project; and (4) authorizing the issuance of General Obligation Bonds (the “Bonds”) in order to pay the costs of constructing the Public Improvements Project; and

WHEREAS, the County now desires to convey its intent to pursue these actions to the Company in order to facilitate progress on the development of the Property through the adoption of this Resolution;

NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Resolved by the Board of Supervisors of Cass County, Iowa, as follows:

Section 1. The County hereby expresses its intent to support the Project in the future.  The County will in good faith negotiate the Development Agreement with respect to the development of the Property and the undertaking of the Project, such proposed agreement to minimally include the following terms:

  1. A) The Company will commit to constructing the Project on the Property; and
  2. B) The Company will agree to maintain ownership of the Property and operate the ethanol plant thereon during the term of the Development Agreement; and
  3. C) The Company will commit to timely payment of all property taxes as they come due with respect to the Property; and
  4. D) The Company will enter into a minimum assessment agreement pursuant to Section 403.6 of the Code of Iowa establishing a minimum increased assessed valuation for the Property of $32,000,000 resulting from the Property; and
  5. E) The Development Agreement will establish a minimum amount of annual incremental property tax revenues to be received by the County for the payment of debt service on the Bonds.  To the extent that the incremental property tax revenues derived from the Property are not sufficient for the County to pay the debt service requirements on the Bonds, the Company will agree to make payments in lieu of property taxes (the “PILOTS”) to the County to make up for any shortfalls in this annual minimum.  The Developer will provide a subordinate mortgage in the Property and/or such other reasonable assets as security on the PILOTS; and
  6. F) The County will agree to fund the Payments over a period of fifteen (15) years of incremental property tax collections.  The Payments will be funded with incremental property tax revenues to be derived from the Property, and each payment will be in an amount which represents 50% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County on the first $32,000,000 of incremental value with respect to the Property during the six months immediately preceding each Payment date.  In addition, in the event that the assessed valuation of the Project exceeds $32,000,000, the County will agree to fund Payments to the Company in an amount which represents 100% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County with respect the portion of taxable incremental value in excess of $32,000,000; and
  7. G) The County will cause the planning, design and construction of the Public Improvements Project, and the County will undertake the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project.  Further the County will issue the Bonds in order to pay the costs of the Public Improvements Project.

Section 2. The County hereby agrees to use its best efforts to complete the statutory requirements of Chapter 403 of the Code of Iowa in order to amend its urban renewal plan and to authorize the Development Agreement.  Both the County and the Company acknowledge that the County’s commitment in this Section is merely a present statement of intent and that the Board of Supervisors must exercise their ordinary political discretion in the completion of the statutory processes referenced herein.  The County will not be held liable in the event that the Board of Supervisors, through the exercise of their ordinary political discretion, determines to not approve any of the actions outlined herein.

Section 3. Nothing in this Resolution shall prevent the parties from negotiating additional terms, not set forth herein, for inclusion in the Development Agreement.

Section 4. All resolutions and orders or parts thereof in conflict with the provisions of this resolution, to the extent of such conflict, are hereby repealed.

West Central Community Action updates Cass Co. Supervisors


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors, today (Wednesday), heard an annual report and request for funding, from West Central Community Action, which serves 10 area Counties, including Cass. WCCA Executive Director Joel Dirks, from Harlan, requested the same amount of funding as last year ($4,000). The funds are used to provide local match support required by some Federal programs, money for programs that provide financial assistance for their clients and assisting in the support of WCCA’s efforts to maintain safe and affordable office space for their local Outreach Centers. It does not pay for program delivery or administrative costs.

Dirks said in his report, West Central provided a little more than $1.6-million in services to the County last year.

He said 58-percent of their clients have a household income below 100% of the poverty guideline or higher ($24, 300 for a family of four).

Single family households comprise 47% of the families that apply for services in Cass County. 23% are two-person households, while those with 3 or more family members are under 12%. Dirks said 68% of their clients receive food assistance. 62% of their clients rent their home, while 37% own or are buying their homes.

WCCA provided more than $1.3-million in direct client program services in Cass County last year. Among the services WCCA provides is Head Start programs (In Anita and near Atlantic), Child Care Resource and Referral, family development, home weatherization, LiHeap (energy assistance), and the WIC program.

The Supervisors took his request for funding under advisement as part of the budget process that expected to begin next month.

Avoca man arrested for violating a No Contact Order


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest of an Avoca man Tuesday night. 38-year old Duke Lou Bruce Petterson was arrested at his residence for Contempt of Court/Violating a No Contact Order, associated with a previous incident. Petterson was booked into the Pott. County Jail and held on a $1,500 bond.

(Podcast) KJAN 8-a.m. News, 12/14/2016

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

More area and State news from KJAN News Director Ric Hanson.


More Christmas laser lights stolen in Creston


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Grinch has struck again in Creston. Authorities say a resident in the 500 block of N. Cherry Street reported Sunday that sometime between 11-p.m. Saturday and 1-a.m. Sunday, someone stole a Christmas Laser Light projector from his yard. The loss was estimated at $25. Earlier this week, we reported two Creston residents had also reported their laser Christmas lights were stolen from yards in the 500 block of N. Cherry Street and the 400 block of N. Vine Street.

Creston Police said also, the S&K Cafe reported Tuesday, that sometime in the last couple of days someone spray painted the side of the building. The damage was estimated at $200. And, authorities say 37-year old Michael Waddingham, of Orient, was arrested Tuesday night on a charge of Driving While Barred. Waddingham was being held in the Union County Jail on a $2000 bond.

(Podcast) KJAN Morning News & funeral report, 12/14/2016

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The area’s top news at 7:06-a.m., w/KJAN News Director Ric Hanson


Judge declares mistrial in Sioux City stabbing death case


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – A judge has declared a mistrial in the murder trial of a Sioux City man charged with stabbing a man to death during an argument. The Sioux City Journal reports District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer declared the mistrial Tuesday afternoon after jurors said they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of 47-year-old Elias Wanatee. Jurors deliberated more than 11 hours before giving up.

Wanatee was charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 17 stabbing death of Vernon Mace. The 50-year-old Mace died after being stabbed nine times. There were no witnesses and police didn’t find the weapon. Defense attorney Jason Dunn suggested during closing argument that Wanatee acted in self-defense. Wanatee will remain in jail while awaiting a new trial.

Study finds few millenial farmers, but they’re having big impact

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The president of a research firm devoted to agriculture says while the number of millennial farmers is small, their impact on farming operations is surprisingly large. Jan Johnson of Millennium Research says producers between the ages of 18 and 34 aren’t always recognized for the important decisions they’re making “Even though they’re young and might actually still have a job off the farm, they’re making a lot of the decisions regarding seed, feed, fertilizer, crop protection, technology and all those sort of day-to-day or seasonal decisions that farmers make,” Johnson says.

With the majority of U.S. farmers over the age of 55, Johnson predicts fewer farmers will control more land. “From the work that we do, which tends to concentrate on commercial-sized operations, we find that farmers under 44 years old tend to control farming operations of almost twice the size of older farmers,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s research also finds “technology adoption” high on the list of priorities for millennial farmers, and most are extremely well-educated.

(Reporting by Mark Dorenkamp, Brownfield Ag News)

Iowa early News Headlines: Wed., Dec. 14th 2016


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:40 a.m. CST

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former Drake University student is challenging a federal government policy that he says discriminates against men in campus sexual assault cases. He claims the Des Moines-based university failed to consider his allegations of sexual assault by a female student but believed her allegations against him and expelled him. The case is one of several filed in recent years claiming federal guidance from 2011 has resulted in reverse discrimination.

HIAWATHA, Iowa (AP) — A man police found earlier this month wandering naked on an eastern Iowa street has been charged with second-degree murder in his mother’s death. Hiawatha Police said Tuesday that 32-year-old Joseph Hubbard faces the murder charge in addition to other charges levied against him earlier. Officers found him wandering naked on a Hiawatha street on Dec. 2 after they say he broke into a church, poured gasoline inside and punched a man. They then found the body of his mother at the home they shared.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities have identified a woman killed at a northeast Des Moines home. The Des Moines Register reports that Polk County deputies called to the home for a domestic disturbance on Monday found 19-year-old Katelynn Rose Gould, of Urbandale, injured in the garage. She died at the scene. Officials have not detailed the nature of her injuries.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Sioux City lawyer has been sentenced to 15 days in jail for a hit-and-run that injured two pedestrians and damaged a vehicle. Television station KTIV reports that 32-year-old Thomas Farrens was sentenced Friday after entering an Alford plea to leaving the scene of a serious injury accident. Court documents say Farrens didn’t stop after his car hit two pedestrians and sideswiped another vehicle on April 4.

Griswold City Council Special mtg 12/14 to discuss Mediation w/Rescue Dept.


December 13th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Members of the Griswold City Council will hold a Special Meeting Wednesday (Dec. 14th) at the Griswold Community Building. During the 6-p.m. session, the Council will discuss Mediation, with regard to the Griswold Rescue Department.

During a work session held November 30th, the Council agreed to a request for formal mediation from four of the nine members of the Rescue Department who had resigned in November following the resignation of former Rescue Captain Julie Kline.

Kline resigned the day after the Council held a closed session Nov. 12th. At a public meeting held soon thereafter, Mayor Jeb Peck said they had issues with the Rescue Department not following its own By-Laws, and their response time to calls, but nothing has ever been mentioned publicly about why Kline resigned.

Griswold City Attorney David Wiederstein said during the Nov. 30th meeting that a complaint had been filed by Kline with the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) following the Nov. 12th closed session. Wiederstein said on behalf of the City, he gave IPIB the materials they requested with regard to that meeting, and that the Board is conducting an investigation into whether there was a violation of the Open Meetings Law. He could say nothing further on that topic.