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Enterprise Zone Would Help Dairy's Biomass Project

POLK COUNTY -- Polk county and the City of Monmouth are requesting that the cities of Dallas and Independence expand their enterprise zones to include the Rickreall Dairy.

The enterprise zone gives businesses within it property tax relief for up to five years.

A hearing on Tuesday, July 5, will air public comment on the proposal.

"The hearing in Dallas only relates to the expansion of the enterprise zone ... this is the first property that would be in the Dallas/Independence/Monmouth enterprise zone outside the cities, so each city must approve of the expansion -- as well as the county," community development director Gene Clemens said.

The county commissioners have already approved of the expansion.

"It's narrowly contained to the area near the dairy. We would not be expanding into the other parts of Rickreall," Dallas City Manager Roger Jordan said.

Local governments are interested in the Rickreall Dairy because of a proposed biomass energy plant the owner Loui Kazmier wants to build on his property. The energy plant, also called a "dairy digester" converts methane gas into electricity and could reduce energy costs for Polk County residents.

"I'm partnering with an investment group (AgStar), and we are going to be building a digester and it will produce enough electricity to power about 1,000 homes in Dallas. And it will slowly eliminate odor," Kazmier said.

AgStar Investments was involved with the construction of a similar biomass plant in Minnesota on Dennis Haubenschild's farm.

The Haubenschild plant was the subject of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota in 2000 who monitored its electricity generation, safety and efficiency.

The study showed that the Haubenschild Plant generated consistent energy safely and cheaply. It also greatly reduced the odor and fly problems common to large dairies.

Kazmier and AgStar are still trying to raise money through grants for the Dallas dairy digester, so construction is a ways off.

"We have issued the conditional use permit for the facility, but have not yet received any building permit applications," Clemens said.

"I'm finding it a lot more difficult to raise money for this than I thought it would be," Kazmier said.

"We're trying to get an enterprise zone expansion to get some tax breaks and offset some of the construction costs once the digester is in place," he concluded.

More Information: the results of the Minnesota study are available at www.mnproject.org under the heading "energy."

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