JBS, Grand Island’s largest employer, asked members of the Grand Island City Council Tuesday to consider approving an ordinance to authorize the Commercial — Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program to allow the company to make a $95 million expansion and improvement project.
At the council meeting, JBS Plant Manager Zachary Ireland; Keirstin Beck, consultant for Integro; and Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, informed council members about the C-PACE program, how JBS will use it, and the benefits the improvement and expansion project will have for Grand Island.
Beck told the council that C-PACE was established to provide industrial and agricultural property owners a financial incentive to install energy-efficient, renewable and conservation measures. The program allows a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment.
She said the Nebraska Legislature passed a law creating C-PACE in 2016, with amendments in 2017 and 2018. Municipalities are authorized to create a C-PACE under the statute. Omaha, Lincoln and La Vista have created C-PACE programs.
Grand Island would be the fourth municipality if the City Council authorizes it. City Administrator Jerry Janulewucz said the council will consider adopting a C-PACE program at its Oct. 22 meeting.
Ireland said the $95 million expansion project will create a 107,000-square-foot facility. Of the $95 million, $40 million will be eligible for PACE measures.
He said the project will improve animal handling facilities, create a temperature-controlled harvest floor, and reconfigure the facility to improve employee experience/safety, food safety and product quality, resulting in energy savings (electricity and gas) and improved water treatment processes.
Ireland said the construction completion is scheduled for March 2021. Plant operations will continue through construction.
He said C-PACE will help the plant upgrade its facilities in order to remain competitive and operational, enabling JBS Grand Island to continue sourcing beef within 150 miles of the plant.
Other benefits include transportation improvements with less staging on streets and more efficient flow of trucks; employee safety as the design of the kill floor has been done with updated employee ergonomics with improved washes and air flow resulting in a safer work environment and food safety; and the temperature-controlled kill floor with centrally controlled heating and air conditioning.
Ireland said the improvements will allow for higher product output to ensure Grand Island remains the top export plant in the U.S. He said 20 percent of the products procesed at the plant are shipped to more than 30 countries.
Johnson said the JBS project will help create 150 jobs on site during the 18-month construction schedule. Ireland said much of the work will involve local contractors.
Another benefit of the project is improved animal welfare as Dr. Temple Grandin will be working on the redesign that will include various improvements to the holding pen with focus on animal comfort.
Also, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, there was a public hearing on the acquisition of 3505 W. Old Potash Highway as part of an ongoing road improvement project along that highway.
John Collins, city public works director, said his staff have established a master plan for the Old Potash Highway corridor from approximately North Road to Webb Road, including intersections to the north and south of Old Potash Highway. The interaction between the various traffic features is complex, making a master plan necessary to ensure that the individual components will function together and address various safety issues.
Collins said the plan includes widening and reconfiguring Old Potash Highway, signal and geometric improvements at each intersection, access management throughout the corridor, and improvements to the north and south of the Old Potash Highway corridor.
He said improvements are needed to allow the corridor to safely handle the ever-increasing traffic in this area.
Collins said to accommodate the widening of Old Potash Highway, property acquisition is necessary. The existing driveway that serves 3505 W. Old Potash Highway is too close to the intersection of Old Potash Highway and U.S. Highway 281, and the proposed improvements will not allow for this driveway to remain and still provide a safe roadway.
He said his engineering staff and the city’s Legal Department have worked with Reece Construction Co. Inc. who, he said, has agreed to a purchase price of $696,000 for the city’s acquisition.
Collins said the purchase will allow for the geometric improvements at the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and Old Potash Highway.
The current business at 3505 W. Old Potash Highway will remain in place until late 2020, he said. The city plans to pay relocation expenses to the affected business once it vacates the property, and will attempt to salvage the land at a later date.
The council also passed a resolution approving a preliminary concept for a sculpture called Densel’s Dream to be placed at Highway 281 and South Webb Road.
Grand Island Partnership for the Arts (GIPA) sought preliminary approval for the city’s acquisition of a parcel of land 0.373 acres in size from the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).
The council’s approval of the project will help set in motion GIPA fundraising for the sculpture.
The proposed site is immediately north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and South Webb Road.
The project honors the late Densel Rasmussen, who had a vision of how to improve the property where the sculpture will be placed.
With the passage of the resolution, fundraising for the project will begin soon. The cost of the project, including site work, lighting and low-maintenance landscaping, is estimated to be about $520,000.
Along with honoring Rasmussen, the sculpture of sandhill cranes in flight will help enhance the city’s entrance, along with increasing the community’s public art offerings. The sculpture, which is being designed by Grand Island native Matthew Placzek, will be 50 feet in length, 14.5 feet tall and about 9 feet wide.