Cement work beginning at Kimball shuttle-loaderDeveloper says he’s close to a deal for another facility near Miller. Chuck Jepson, of Liberty Grain LLC, said he also has interest in three other sites in South Dakota where grain loading facilities may be feasible.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
KIMBALL — Cement work is beginning on a large railroad grain-loading facility near Kimball, and the developer says he’s close to a deal on a similar facility near Miller.
Chuck Jepson, of Liberty Grain LLC, said he also has interest in three other sites in South Dakota where grain loading facilities may be feasible. The Kimball facility’s projected cost is $32 million, and the other facilities would be similar.
Work is progressing as planned at the site of Liberty Grain’s project between Kimball and White Lake. Jepson, of Fort Pierre, said dirt work is complete and preparations to install foundations for several structures on the site are under way.
He said locals can expect to see the walls of the sites’ fertilizer plant go up soon.
Barring unforeseen weather delays, Jepson said workers plan to begin pouring the concrete for the first two connected 140-foot concrete bins in January.
The bins will handle corn, beans and wheat brought to the site once it is operational.
Each of the 140-foot bins will hold more than 600,000 bushels of grain. Concrete for each of the bins must be poured continuously in a labor-intensive, eight-day process to prevent any seams from forming in the walls of the structure.
Eight smaller bins are scheduled to be poured in March, and will hold more than a million bushels of grain altogether and make the total storage capacity of the site more than 2 million bushels.
Jepson said Liberty Grain plans to set up a webcam so the public can watch the pouring of the structures as it happens on the company’s website, libertygrain.com.
To staff this vital stage of the project, Liberty Grain plans to hire more than 300 workers who will work in shifts around the clock until the pouring is complete.
There are currentlyabout 40 people working at the construction site.
Hoping to take advantage of a $28 million rehabilitation of state-owned rail line between Mitchell and Chamberlain, Liberty Grain began planning the multi-million dollar project earlier this year.
Since then, Gov. Daugaard has pledged to match an additional $4 million if the state receives federal funds to extend the rehabilitation of the rail line to Presho.
Dakota Mill and Grain Inc. has also taken steps to begin work on a grain-loading facility at a site northwest of Kimball that includes the town’s former airport, which the company has negotiated to purchase from the city. Brian Hammerbeck, of Dakota Mill and Grain, did not return calls from The Daily Republic seeking comment on the potential project.
“If I was worried, I wouldn’t be building,” Jepson said of the prospect of having two major grain-loading facilities so close to one another near Kimball.
Dakota Mill and Grain also owns a number of large grain storage bins in Presho and has made plans to construct even more, according to Presho Mayor Mike Sprenger.
Once completed, Liberty Grain’s facility near Kimball will be able to handle more than 500 trucks each day during harvest season.
“At the end of the day, one is going to increase the value of the other,” he said of his project and the potential Dakota Mill and Grain project. “Two might actually produce a little more competition for grain, so it’s probably good for the producers, and if our customers are profitable, we’re profitable.”
Both Liberty Grain and Dakota Mill and Grain got approval from Brule County to have tax incremental financing districts created to facilitate infrastructure improvements around each construction site.
Jepson said Liberty Grain put up more than $800,000 to fund improvements to roads near its site, and plans to use TIF funding to further improve infrastructure in the area.
Kimball, a town with 703 residents as of the 2010 census, may struggle to find room for people coming to the area to work at the construction sites.
Kimball Mayor Wayne Tupper admitted the availability of housing will be an issue but said the city is looking into ways it can alleviate the problem.
Yet another grain-loading facility is being planned at Napa Junction, located northwest of Yankton, by the Dakota Plains Ag Center LLC, based in Tripp. The estimated $28 million to $30 million facility remains in the early stages of planning and engineering with a tentative completion date in 2013.
The sites would service shuttle trains moving hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain for export to growing demand areas oversees, including Asia.
“We’re excited,” Jepson said. “We just think it’s going to be a great deal for everybody.”