Ethanol Plant Informational Meeting

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Developers of an ethanol plant on this land just outside Rockford have a message: the times have changed since this plant in Lena came about in 2002.

"There's a lot of comparisons to older ethanol plants with different technologies, and I think it's important that people know that we are going to build a a state of the art plant," The Wight Group Vice President John Goebel said.

The open house opened the door for questions from nearby neighbors. They're concerned about odor and noise, and how the plant could set their property value in a free fall.

"With something like this in our backyard that will be very, very visible from your backyard, no one is going to want to buy that, no matters how many takers you might have," Melissa Navarro said.

But farmers at the meeting argue an ethanol plant would boost the price of their own local crops, and cut back the dependence of overseas oil.

"This would not only give jobs. We'd use our own fuel and be able to make a living as well," Doty Schelm said.

The Winnebago County Farm Bureau - which hosted the open house - supports the plant, and defends critics who believe the information is biased.

"Not really, I think anybody with common sense could look at this and evaluate the merits of this project," Bernie Walsh said.

But some residents remain skeptical, and believe the session had a muffled and contradictory message.

"It would be good if they would all sit at a table, and allow us to ask the questions and hear the same answers, because when you go to different tables, you hear different responses," Marla Eash said.
An open house, that left many without open minds for an ethanol plant near their backyards.

For these plans to move forward, land for the plant must first be re-zoned from agricultural to heavy industrial. That process begins in full next Wednesday. The Winnebago County Board is expected to make a decision by early March. The plant would employ 43 people full-time, and have a payroll beginning at $1.5 million each year.