$1.9B Cronus fertilizer plant construction delayed again

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TUSCOLA — People in the city have been wondering when they would see progress on a construction project worth nearly $2 billion. Leaders with Cronus Chemicals are planning to build a fertilizer plant in Douglas County. They made the announcement in 2014. But there still hasn’t been any visible movement on the 235-acre site, west of the city.
 
Dave Lundy, who is the president of Aileron Communications and is representing Cronus, says they’re still making progress. You can imagine how much work goes into building a home, like one that’s worth $200,000. Multiply that by 10,000, with considerations for things like contracts, materials and labor. It’s taking longer than they expected, but Lundy says they hope to start this summer and be up and running three years later. It’s also costing more than they originally planned for, since it was announced as a $1.4 billion project and now the company’s website says it’s a $1.9 billion project.
 
The field looks the same as it did in 2014, when the announcement came that Cronus Chemicals wanted to put a fertilizer plant on site. Governor Quinn is gone now, but hope for the field’s potential is still there. Tuscola economic development executive director Brian Moody says he’s optimistic.
 
“[The Cronus officials] appear very determined to put it across the finish line here and the past couple months have indicated things appear to be going pretty well,” said Moody.
 
If things move forward like they’re supposed to, about 1,500 people will get construction jobs. Another 150 to 200 full time positions will be available at the plant.
 
“These are all well paying jobs,” said Moody. “These are anticipated to be $62,000 a year and up through all the personnel, so good jobs in the area. That’s the thing I think we’re most excited about.”
 
The overall economic impact could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city.  But it’ll take more than people to keep the plant running. Water from the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District would help dissipate heat created in the fertilizer-making process.
 
“They’re looking for 6 million gallons per day, which comes out to a little bit over 2 billion gallons per year,” said Rick Manner, who is the executive director for UCSD.
 
They’ll still process the water like usual, but instead of pumping it into a creek, it would head south to Tuscola in pipes Cronus is responsible for building. Still, people are wondering and worried it might not come at all.
 
“It’s tough right now because it’s kind of been in limbo to them,” said Moody. “They don’t get to see a lot of the day to day activity going on and I totally understand that. We’re kind of just in a wait mode right now.”
 
People in Tuscola have been burned before. They were expecting to see FutureGen just north of where the fertilizer plant is planned to be, but the plug got pulled on that as well.
 
The UCSD board will be talking about Cronus on Thursday. Leaders there put together a contract with the company that they wouldn’t back out of the project before July 2017. Manner says he’ll recommend they extend that commitment through 2018. That would give Cronus officials more stability when they talk with bankers about the plant.

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