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Developers, mayor squelch packing plant rumors
February 05, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Gering Mayor - Tony Kaufman

Rumors started to fly over the weekend on social media after Bluffs Broadcasting announced an ownership group with members from both inside and outside the area was clearing the way for a meatpacking plant to be built just east of Gering.

The report said the location of the plant was revealed to them as “Ave. U and Sugar Factory Road.” However, no such address exists. The actual property is in the area of U Street and 21st Avenue, just outside Gering’s city limits to the east. But it’s not being developed for anything at this time.

A Warranty Deed filed with the Register of Deeds Office indicates that in July of 2014, group member Leo Hoehn purchased, for $630,000, an 83-acre piece of land east of the Gering wastewater treatment plant, north of U Street and bordering on 21st Avenue. Whether the property could be used for a meatpacking plant has yet to be determined.

Although the property is outside the Gering city limits, it’s still within Gering’s jurisdictional boundary. Any change of zoning to allow for heavy industrial use would have to be approved by the city council.

The media report stated “At this stage, the ownership group and development team have initiated conversations with the appropriate officials to facilitate the development process and pave the way for the project.”

The report went on to say the project is “being developed by a commercial real estate company that has experience in developing complicating projects.”

However, no official steps have been taken. A group of stock feeders from Morrill County had expressed an interest in the possibility of a packing plant but it’s still in the discussion stages.

Group member Peter Lapaseotes of Bridgeport said it’s in the discussion stage among the group to see if such a facility would be financially sustainable. He also emphasized they won’t move forward with the project unless the public knows about it and is in support.

“There’s been nothing filed with the city,” said Mayor Tony Kaufman. “Nothing’s changed since the group first announced their idea at a community meeting. But we absolutely want public input for this project.”

Kaufman added the city has taken a complete step back while the investor group works out the preliminary details. “There won’t be any meetings with the city until they go public,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a packing plant has been proposed for the area. Last spring, South Korean-based Food to Energy proposed a plant in the area. The proposal was turned down by Scottsbluff as not being economically feasible after an exploration conducted by city officials and Twin Cities Development. Gering, under the leadership of former mayor Ed Mayo, picked up the proposal after Scottsbluff rejected the plan.

Gering residents claimed the city was not being transparent with them about the plant, including a trip to Korea made by city staff members to inspect the company.
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