SIBLEY, Iowa -- Residents and local leaders alike in Sibley hope to put a stinky situation with a local manufacturer behind them soon.
For two years, residents of the Osceola County seat have cried foul over the the odor being emitted by Iowa Drying and Processing, which specializes in manufacturing and processing of food and feed grade products.
The 160,000-square-foot plant, which is the subject of protracted litigation with the city, and is now up for sale, has been in business since 2013. The 6.7-acre site, near the downtown business district, was previously occupied by Associated Milk Producers Inc.
The city and IDP initially had a strong relationship as the business brought new jobs to the community and filled a large, empty industrial space; however, things started to sour once the plant became operational.
“It’s always good to have a new business come to town, but sometimes that business doesn’t live up to standards one expects,” said Sibley resident Wade Ellerbroek. “People have the rights to enjoy their homes, being out in their yards and children at school shouldn’t have to stay in from recess because the smell is overpowering.”
Ellerbroek is the co-owner of Ellerbroek & Associates, a fifth-generation family-owned insurance and real estate company located around the corner from IDP. He said smells from the plant have hurt the town's image, blown real estate deals and hampered downtown businesses.
"I've seen people that have gone into restaurants and say the smell is so bad they can't eat and turn around and leave," Ellerbroek said. "I've seen people walking up and down Main Street holding their noses and covering their mouths. I think it has affected some buying decisions on real estate."
The businessman describes the primary odor “as rancid and dead animal-like,” but said it varies based on what the company is manufacturing on any given day.
Odors from the plant became so unbearable that the city began issuing multiple citations of $750 — the maximum amount it could charge at the time — to IDP labeling the smell a nuisance.
In January, the city council passed an ordinance increasing the maximum fine to $1,000.
“We changed our nuisance ordinances to put a little more force on our citations,” said city attorney Harold Dawson.
Dawson said the city has levied nearly $40,000 against IDP, the most recent of which was issued on Oct. 31. So far, none have been paid.
Throughout this year, the city council has been trying to find a way to come up with an amicable solution to the odor problems.
“What the city was trying to do was basically put in place a procedure where we could get an engineer involved and spend up to $50,000 and see how they could operate the plant and have the necessary equipment to abate any further nuisances,” Dawson said.
“Of course, at this point in time, that objective is never going to be reached.”
IDP would have footed the bill for the engineering study and upgrades to the plant, something the company objected to. When the company declined to comply with that arrangement, the city filed suit against IDP, which filed a countersuit shortly afterwards.
A trial is slated for July 18; however, a settlement hearing is set for June.
Dawson thinks the situation will be resolved before either of those dates are reached. IDP’s parent company, North Central Companies of the Twin Cities, put the plant up for sale in September for $5.5 million.
A representative for North Central Companies confirmed the building was still on the market, but declined to provide anymore information on the situation with Sibley.
“They are not shut down, but they are effectively shut down as far as doing the majority of the products they were they doing before, so they are not doing any more rendered products, but they are still in operation,” Dawson said.
“Basically, the plant is for sale and so they are eventually hoping to sell the plant. At this time, it doesn’t look like they are ever going to operate the plant like they were previously on an ongoing basis,” he continued.
In Harold’s view, IDP is keeping the plant somewhat operational until it finds a buyer for the facility.
“The city never did achieve its objective as far as getting a viable plant there with the odor abatement equipment and we know that’s not going to happen,” Dawson said. “So everything is, like I said, kind of put on hold.”
The IDP plant had 26 full-time employees at the beginning of this year; however, that number has seemed to dwindle alongside the plant’s production capabilities. The plant was expected to bring 30 or more full-time jobs to Sibley as part of an agreement with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, which had pledged to provide $150,000 in incentives to IDP.
IDP asked the Des Moines-based state economic group to terminate its contract with the organization when its due diligence committee met on Oct. 26.
While Ellerbroek hates to see Sibley lose jobs, he supports the city wholeheartedly in this fight.
“The city needs to stand strong on their position and enforce the nuisance ordinance," he said.