Biodiesel plant construction gets OK

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

American Renewable Fuels can begin construction of its Clovis biodiesel plant after City Commissioners voted to work with the company.

Commissioners approved an agreement that would give the company 25 acres of land at the Industrial Park and a 15-year tax exemption.

The Australian company will begin construction in March on an $80 million biodiesel facility at the park south of Clovis, according to Clovis Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry. The plant will use animal fat to produce 75 million gallons of biodiesel a year, company officials said.

Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Randy Crowder was the lone dissenter in a 7-1 vote.

Crowder voted against the agreement because of water use. He noted the city’s water conservation plan that designates water use for Clovis residents.

“It’s inappropriate for me to ask people to conserve water and pass something like that,” he said.

The tax exemption forgives the company from paying property tax for 15 years through a $75 million industrial development bond, Gentry said.

Crowder said under the agreement, the company could also request capital outlay funding from the Commission.

The facility will use about 40,000 gallons of water a day according to CIDC business recruiter Gene Hendricks.

Mayor David Lansford said the plant, which will create about 40 jobs, is a good compromise to losing the water to farms that don’t create jobs.

“I don’t think it’s fair to beat up on an industrial user that’s a reasonable water use that creates jobs,” he said. “I think it’s a good trade, 40 jobs for 40,000 gallons a day.”

Hendricks said corn growers are allowed 1 million gallons of water a year for every acre of corn by the state.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the land the facility will build on used to be a corn field.

“In your conversation of agriculture versus industrial use, based on that premise, we’d probably be using 100 million gallons per year less at the cost of 40,000 gallons a day,” he said.

Crowder also brought up concerns about any odor the facility would emit in it’s process of converting rendered animal fat into biodiesel. City Attorney Dave Richards said the city does not have any regulations regarding odors. Thomas said the facility is a self-contained plant that would not emit any odors if operated properly.

Clovis resident and former City Commissioner Gloria Wicker said the city should stop recruiting water-intensive industries that would take water from the citizen’s of Clovis.

“If the water goes, Clovis goes,” she said.

In other business at Thursday’s Clovis City Commission meeting:

The roundabout on the intersection of Norris and Llano Estacado hasn’t just gotten attention from drivers going around it, but also from the state.
The city received an award Tuesday for the roundabout at the 12th annual New Mexico Infrastructure Finance conference in Albuquerque, according to public works director Harry Wang.
The roundabout was built a year ago to ease congestion at the intersection, according to Wang.
Clovis Municipal Airport director Stephen Summers received the Airport Manager of the Year award from the New Mexico State Transportation Commission.

Commissioners voted to go into negotiations for engineering design services fees to repair the runway for the Clovis Municipal Airport. Summers is requesting about $225,000, according to City Commission meeting documents.

Commissioners approved a bid from Arizona-based medical insurance broker Hays and Company. City Purchasing Agent David Boswell said the city is contracting with a medical insurance broker for the first time. Boswell said the broker will negotiate with medical insurance providers for city employee health care plans.

Commissioners approved a bid for an automatic tarping machine for the city landfill. The machine would lay a tarp over the trash in a pit at the end of the day, according to Wang.

Mayor David Lansford requested to place the creation of a city employee compensation review committee on the next agenda. Lansford said the idea for the committee came from requests from the fire department to change its pay structure. Lansford said all city
departments’ compensation plans will come under review except the police department because it is unionized.