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Hearing reveals sharp divisions over creamery expansion

This is the year the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is to celebrate its 100th anniversary and begin the process of expanding its plant.

But it also could be the beginning of a long and contentious process for the creamery to engage in its expansion plans if the opinions offered at a public hearing lasting a little over an hour during the Ellsworth Village Board's meeting Monday are any indication.

The hearing pushed the regular board meeting to over three hours in length.

At issue was a resolution to apply for grants to begin the infrastructure building for the creamery's proposed expansion. Spokespersons from Cedar Corporation, engineering firm of Menomonie, described to the full board the proposal to widen and improve the intersection between Morse Street and Hwys. 10 and 63, along with installing a box culvert between Morse and Wallace streets, plus a bridge over the culvert leading into the facility. The cost is $265,000 and the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) would pay for it if awarded and then accepted by the full village board. The proposal would also create a new TIF district for the area around the creamery.

"This proposal will allow us to add 15 jobs and keep the 83 we have currently employed," Paul Bauer, Creamery CEO said. "It will allow us to continue to contribute the $22 million we do to Ellsworth economy. We need to expand and improve our facilities to continue to be viable business here in Ellsworth."

David Crosby of Cenex, which owns a convenience store and gas station next to the creamery, offered his support for the expansion plan as well.

But there were several East Ellsworth residents who feared any expansion and increase in production at the plant will increase both the odors and the whey powder coming from the plant. Bauer jokingly referred to it as the "Ellsworth snow," but many East Enders weren't laughing.

"It may seem funny to you," Board Member and East End resident Dick Hines responded to Bauer. "But it's not funny to those who live in East Ellsworth and have to deal with the powder and the smells every day now and every day in the past. And right now, I feel it's the worst it's ever been. The plans I've seen so far I don't feel address these problems. Your water treatment ponds are failing and I believe any such expansion would be unhealthy for the community."

For more please read the June 9 print version of the Herald.