The extent that cities and towns go to for "economic development" is, as all of you know, ridiculous. While handing out gifts to corporate entities, residents' concerns are brushed aside with the flick of the wrist.
This approach can be exemplified by the lengths East Moline, Illinois was willing to go to land the Triumph Pork Processing plant.
Triumph wants to build the world's largest meat processing plant (somewhere north of 600,000 square feet) at a total cost of more that $135 million (at least $60 million in the building alone). Estimates are that more than 16,000 hogs per day would be processed at this plant. This would likely result in the construction of many new large-scale hog farms in proximity to the plant.
Residents are less then thrilled and continue the battle over it.
In "Stop the Presses: Unconscionable incentives undermine economic development" written by Mike Kroll with the The Zephyr in Galesburg, Illinois, reports:
East Moline wants this plant built on undeveloped land near the Rock River. City officials have declared this land to be “blighted” and unlikely to develop without the application of special incentives available to Tax Increment Financing districts. “In order to provide adequate infrastructure to the Project, [East Moline] has determined that it is in the best interest of the City and the health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the City for the City to improve its infrastructure including the extension of water and sanitary sewer service to the Project.” Such utility extensions are not uncommon and seem to be very reasonable incentive but East Moline sweetened the pot further to help Triumph get the project rolling. As a TIF district any of the added property taxes that are collected due to the millions of dollars of improvements made to this property by Triumph won't go to tax-supported public bodies like the city, schools, or county. Instead, the initial $5 million these funds will be returned to Triumph as an incentive gift. But this is only the start of TIF money promised to Triumph.
Hog processing plants use lots and lots of water and generate lots and lots of wastewater. This wastewater is contaminated with fats, grease, solids, bacteria and ammonia (to name a few ingredients) and must be treated before discarded into the Rock River. To do this East Moline has promised another $8 million in TIF money to construct an on-site sewage treatment plant that will be owned by the city but leased to Triumph for just $100 per year. Triumph is expected to “operate and maintain the sewage treatment facility at its sole cost and expense.”
To provide all the water needed by this hog processing plant East Moline is willing to go well beyond just running a water line to Triumph's plant. East Moline promised to “construct a high water tower, at its own expense.” The water main and tower must provide water flow of at least 4,250 gallons of water per minute 24 hours per day, 365 days per year and a capacity of over 3.4 million gallons daily. Now to East Moline's credit they aren't offering to simply give all this away for free, just nearly free. Triumph would be guaranteed a water rate of $0.41 per 1,000 gallons over a 20-year contract (with annual adjustments for inflation over the life of the contract). Another $7 million of TIF money will be used to pay for these water infrastructure improvements.
In addition to water and sewer the plant will also require gas and electric service but we can't have Triumph paying for these either so East Moline will absorb that cost as well. Not to be left out, Rock Island County is committed to improving Barstow Road along side the Triumph site to handle the weight and extra traffic that will result from hundreds of hog trucks entering and exiting the Triumph plant daily. Once these improvements are completed the county will turn over responsibility for the road to East Moline who will rename it Triumph Parkway. At this point we have a commitment of more that $20 million in TIF dollars plus low-ball water and sewer pricing but that's just not enough! Since TIF funds are based on the future prospect of property tax revenue East Moline will need to sell $20 million in revenue bonds to provide the upfront funding demanded by the project. As with all borrowing this will incur costs for interest and fees.
The following is from the Quad-City Times.
Protesters rally against pork plant
By Barb Ickes
BARSTOW, Ill. — The signs in the parking lot made clear the purpose of the rally: “We can do better than hogs,” one sign read.
“(East Moline Mayor John) Thodos 1-term mayor,” another read.
Residents living near the site of a soon-to-be-built hog-processing plant in East Moline are spending much of the weekend rallying for change. They hope to submit affidavits to the Illinois governor’s office, demanding an environmental impact study on the land that will be used for Triumph Foods’ new pork processing plant.
A rally was held all day Saturday at the Archery Zone on Barstow Road near the future site of the plant. Today, there will be an informational meeting from 1-5 p.m. at the Boulevard, 1801 10th St., Moline.
Many residents fought against the plant and lost, learning recently that the State of Illinois is giving $16 million to the effort. But the neighbors are not giving up, including those who live miles away from Barstow Road.
When a couple from neighboring Silvis, Ill., approached organizer Art Norris on Saturday, they wondered how the Triumph plant might affect them.
“We can expect a smell for a 5-mile radius, and you’ll be getting some of the pollution from it in your area of the Rock River,” Norris said, prompting the pair to fill out an affidavit to submit to the governor’s office.
Though residents seemed to trickle into the meeting place early Saturday, Norris said the more impressive part of the rally came later with speakers from various environmental groups sharing their concerns about the plant.
“It went great. We had a lot of people come through today,” he said. And about 200 people signed affidavits that he said they will use to demand that environmental impact statements be completed on the site.
Norris, who also lives off Barstow Road, said his purpose is to educate his neighbors about specific concerns related to the hog plant.
“We know that 244 semi trucks will be going along (Barstow Road) every day,” he said. “That’ll affect air quality.
“There’s not a good plan in place for a waste-water treatment plant,” he said. “Hog waste is 110 times harder to break down than human waste.”
He also worries about area wildlife, he said, including the hundreds of migratory birds that flock to the two lakes across Barstow Road from the Triumph site. Endangered mussels live in a creek that follows the property, and neighbors also worry about what will happen to their property values.
“How can you get $16 million from the government for 1,000 jobs when, at the same time, you’re destroying 400 homes?” he asked.
At least one of the people who appeared at Saturday’s rally has a different kind of interest in the project. RiverStone Group Inc. owns the land on which Triumph plans to build, and the company’s spokesman, Bob Imler, attended the rally.
“I’m just learning,” he said earlier in the day. “I’m looking forward to hearing the speakers — to what they have to say.”