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Meeker County OKs abatement for First District project

LITCHFIELD -- Meeker County Commissioners approved an abatement agreement Tuesday that will give a local dairy processor up to $190,000 in tax rebates over a 20-year period.

The city of Litchfield has taken similar action. The Litchfield School District is not participating in the abatement.

The abatement will be a "small part" of a major expansion project planned by the First District Association, said County Administrator Paul Virnig.

The first phase of the expansion is estimated at about $19 million and will help double the capacity of the facility to process milk. The total project is estimated at $50 million to $75 million. Under the agreement, the county will keep the property tax revenues on the existing property and return the tax revenues on the improvements. The abatement is capped at $190,000. The company is a "top notch, first-class employer" for the county, said Virnig. "It's the heart and soul of our county."

Besides the tax abatement, the city of Litchfield is also participating in an expansion of the sanitary sewer system that will allow First District to expand.

An agreement with Kandiyohi County was approved to lease the new Humane Society building being built in Willmar. Meeker County will pay $85,000 in up front fees for facility costs and will pay a yearly user fee that's based on the number of animals taken there.

With just one person running the program, Virnig said the Meeker County system is "very fragile" and teaming up with Kandiyohi County is a "long-term solution for dealing with animals."

Virnig said Meeker County residents need to know they will have the same opportunity to bring animals to the Willmar facility as anyone in Kandiyohi County. "It is truly a joint county effort."

In other action:

- The commissioners agreed to oversee a project to complete another leg of a recreation trail around Lake Koronis and will seek funding for a grant to install a separate bridge deck over a drainage ditch. The deck would be built on existing pilings.

- A contract was approved with Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc. to provide physical and mental health care, medications and billing for county jail prisoners. The contract with the Illinois company is $45,000, which Virnig said is about the county currently spends by providing the services. The county will continue to provide a nurse to the jail.

- The commissioners agreed to write a new wind farm ordinance that addresses generators up to 25 megawatts.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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