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Four to tour ethanol plant before hearing on local plans

Four Buffalo officials will travel to South Dakota to tour an ethanol plant Monday -- a day before the Common Council holds a public hearing on plans for a similar facility in Buffalo.

RiverWright Energy wants to construct an $80 million facility on the Buffalo River that would turn corn into an alternative fuel for vehicles. The plant, on a 23-acre site along Childs Street, is expected to employ 65 people.

Some residents have endorsed plans to transform old grain elevators and milling facilities into a fuel-producing complex. Others have raised concerns about pollution, odors, noise and rodents. Still others have raised fears that such a facility could cause home insurance premiums to increase in the neighborhood.

Council President David A. Franczyk and South Council Member Michael P. Kearns have accepted an invitation from RiverWright Energy officials to tour an ethanol facility in Rosholt, S.D. They will be joined by an official from the Office of Strategic Planning and a city fire prevention expert.

Kearns, who represents the neighborhood in which the plant would be located, said he recognizes that it could be an innovative facility.

"However, I want to be certain that safety measures are met and quality-of-life concerns are addressed for the residents in the South and Fillmore Council districts," he said.

Monday morning, the group will fly to North Dakota, then make a 50-mile drive to the plant in South Dakota. They will return to Buffalo that night.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday,, the Council's Legislation Committee will hold a special meeting where residents will be allowed to comment on RiverWright's plan. Company officials will attend the hearing in Council Chambers on the 13th floor of City Hall.

"We had a meeting with residents a few months ago, and some of their questions couldn't be answered at that time," Kearns said.

Before the project can proceed, it will need various approvals from the city, including actions by the Planning Board and Common Council, as well as reviews of the potential environmental impact.


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