Simmons, Kentucky State agree to share building donated in methane plant deal
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The former Schenley Distillery Building will be shared between Simmons College of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, ending a dispute that threatened to complicate a planned methane plant in western Louisville.
At a news conference last week, Simmons President Rev. Kevin Cosby said he was told during negotiations with project officials that the college would own the building at 15th and Maple streets – only to have that promise pulled.
STAR BioEnergy of Fort Wayne, Ind., had agreed to donate the building as part of a $5 million “community benefits” package that invests in nearby neighborhoods that have opposed the company’s plant to be built at 17th and Maple streets.
In a news release, STAR BioEnergy said Simmons and Kentucky State have agreed to share the building, which Simmons plans to use for classrooms and teaching space; Kentucky State intends to house aquaculture and hydroponics programs.
“This generous donation of property … will greatly aid Simmons’ mission of providing quality education for some of our community’s most marginalized citizens,” Cosby, who also is pastor at St. Stephen Church, said in a statement.
STAR BioEnergy has an option to buy the land, which is assessed for tax purposes at $2.1 million, according to property records. The donation is dependent on the project getting approval from the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment and being built, said Brian Zoeller, a Louisville attorney for STAR BioEnergy.
Zoeller said in an interview that he expects BOZA to hear the company’s application on Dec. 7 and buy the Schenley building shortly thereafter. The eventual ownership structure of the building is “completely still up in the air,” he said, but emphasized that Simmons and Kentucky State have agreed to share space.
The $32 million methane plant, or biodigester, would take leftover grain from Heaven Hill’s distilling process and convert it into biogas. STAR BioEnergy has agreed to limit incoming truck traffic to 10 per day and ensure that minority workers make up 30 percent of an estimated 100 construction jobs.
Also on Wednesday, STAR BioEnergy and Heaven Hill said they are creating a three-member group that will name a board overseeing $3.5 million in grants from the firms to a new West Louisville Community Benefits Fund. The group includes Dana Johnson of the Community Foundation of Louisville; Metro Council member David James; and Kevin Fields of Louisville Central Community Centers.
If STAR BioEnergy gets BOZA approval, the methane plant could be under construction by next spring and running by late 2016, according to the company.
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