SD Beef Plant May Conduct Test Slaughter Soon

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — A long-delayed South Dakota beef-processing plant is ready for a test run, an indication it is making progress toward opening.

Aberdeen city officials have issued Northern Beef Packers a temporary certificate of occupancy, which will allow the plant to slaughter up to five cattle to test its equipment, the Aberdeen American News reported.

Brett Bill, Aberdeen planning and zoning director, said the plant would need a permanent certificate of occupancy and some other permits before it can begin full processing.

Land for the $109 million plant was secured in 2006, but numerous problems — financial issues, lawsuits, local opposition, delinquent property taxes, liens, flooding, an economic downturn — have repeatedly pushed back the opening date.

The plant on Aberdeen's south side will initially process about 200 cattle a day, eventually ramping up to 1,500 head a day from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

Bill said Aberdeen building inspectors have been at the plant daily for the past month to assist crews with questions about building code requirements. The plant has made substantial progress in construction and equipment installation, which was required to receive the temporary certificate of occupancy, Bill said. The plant has met the necessary health and safety requirements, he said.

Robin Bobzien, Aberdeen's public works director, said Northern Beef has all the water hookups in place. The plant has not yet completed all the necessary testing for wastewater or received its wastewater permit, but the processing of a few head of cattle does not require that permit, he said.

"As long as they are not discharging anything into the city wastewater system, we don't have an issue," Bobzien said.

The newspaper reported that a check of the Brown County Register of Deeds office Thursday showed that the beef plant has satisfied 16 liens totaling $1.85 million. In the past, Northern Beef has not paid all its contractors. The liens that have been released were all from this year.

The plant still has other liens against it, of which at least one is in the court system.

At a job fair Sept. 18, a beef plant official reported that 258 employees are on the payroll. Officials have said the plant will need 250 employees to open, but it eventually will employ 650.

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