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Cargill Mine Shaft40 people filled the Lansing Town Hall last Friday to tell the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) what they think about a proposed tax abatement on materials to build a new mine shaft in Lansing.  The public hearing was to gather comments on a proposal to grant a sales tax abatement of $640,000 to Cargill Deicing Technology (CDT) when it builds a new $45 million mine shaft in Lansing.

Of 19 speakers seven were in favor of granting the abatement, while 12 said they opposed it.  Most speakers agreed that Cargill has been an exceptionally 'good neighbor,' pouring donations of money and volunteer hours into the community, assisting local event and nearby companies, and providing about 200 jobs and millions of dollars of local taxes and business.  But some questioned whether a profitable, established company should receive a tax abatement.

"Our county, like so many counties in the State of New York, is suffering because of the decline of sales taxes," said village of Lansing resident Ronnie Hardaway.  "I think it behooves our local government, to take it into consideration before signing a tax abatement of this amount to a large company that can absorb this cost."

Cayuga MineThe Cayuga Rock Salt Mine, the deepest in North America, produces about 2 million tons of road salt per year

The project is a new 2,500 foot deep mine shaft, including a two-story elevator much like the one that is used every day at Cargill's lakeside location just south of Myers Park.  The new shaft will be constructed on between 10 and 15 acres of a 55 acre lot near the intersection of Ridge and Swayze Roads.  Mine Manager Shawn Wilczynski says the shaft will be a near duplicate of the 2,300 foot deep existing shaft, including a hoist head frame, the hoist itself, and a changing room for the employees who will enter the mine from that location.  A new 4,000 foot long tunnel will be dug out to connect an existing tunnel beneath Cayuga Lake to bottom of the new shaft.

"So it is pretty much replicating the exact same thing except the shaft is a little larger to facilitate better air flow than the previous shaft, which is only 11 feet.  We’ve learned our lesson from the January incident (in which 17 miners were trapped in the elevator, 900 feet below ground, and all were rescued unharmed).  We have a much better inspection and acceptance criteria for our guide systems, that’s for sure."

Cargill MineOver 95 years the mine has extended 7.5 miles from the existing shaft bottom. The three key issues are that miners have an additional 7.5 mile commute after descending to the mine, emergency egress is 7.5 miles from the active mining tunnels, and the distance that can be effectively ventilated from the existing shaft is close to being reached. While the current mining rights do not extend another 7.5 miles, company officials say that they will negotiate with New York State when the time comes to extend the distance for future operations.

While the Lansing mine generally operates independently, Wilczynski says the Cargill corporation is funding $37 million, which leaves the local mine to come up with the remaining  $8 million.  The sales tax abatement and other

"This is being more about good stewards of Cargill’s money and their investment," says Wilczynski.  "We’re doing what we can to make this project as financially viable as possible."

New Cargill Mine Shaft

Cargill has mined in Lansing for 95 years.  The mine, which produces rock salt used for melting ice on highways and roadways, has close to 200 employees who donate 4,000 hours to their community, and Cargill donates $100,000 per year to the community.  The Town of Lansing receives nearly $18,204 per year in taxes.  Tompkins County receives about $82,139 a year, Lansing School District receives about $250,216, and New York State gets around $220 million a year.

"We’re asking for $640,000, probably over a three-year period of time, so that’s a little more than half of the money we give back to the community, let alone the annual economic impact," Wilczynski says.  "We completely understand that $640,000 is a lot of money.  But in relative terms of what’s at risk here, I think it’s relatively small."

Wilczynski joined IDA Administrative Director Heather McDaniel, taking notes on comments, pro and con.  Cayuga Power Plan Plant spokesman Jerry Goodenough called Cargill an excellent business partner and neighbor that had provided help to the Power plant on several occasions.  Lansing representative to the Tompkins County Legislature Mike Sigler said that Lansing is going through difficult times, especially in light of the uncertain future of one of the town's other two large industrial businesses, the Cayuga Power Plant.

Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Membership Services & Program Manager Ryan McCune, and Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne were among speakers supporting the tax abatement.  Resident Michael Koplinka-Loehr said that, as the new mine shaft's closest neighbor, he and his wife support granting the abatement.

"It’s an economic decision," he said.  "When an entity, no matter what size they are, puts forward a request for an abatement they do an analysis of whether they will be able to afford this project.  $640,000 is that 2% of this project that may make or break it."

Cargill Mine Shaft Sales Tax Abtement Public HearingAbout 40 people filled the Lansing Town Hall at 2pm last Friday for a public hearing on whether Tompkins County should grant a $640,000 tax abatement to Cargill Deicing Technology on materials purchased to build a new 2,500 foot deep mine shaft.

“The idea of an economic incentive to keep a business in the Town is very important.  Retaining a business in the town is far more cost effective than to try to go out and get a new business, said resident Chris Williams.  He then continued, “I’m one that’s very skeptical of large businesses.  I believe that Cargill has really earned my trust.  I don’t know them, but if you talk to anybody in the community they are very concerned about this, and I believe they are one of the companies that do have a corporate conscience.“

Speakers opposing the abatement noted that entering the mine so much closer to active mining tunnels will mean less commuting time that they asserted will translate into more productivity, and, therefore, more profits for the company.  Some spoke of environmental concerns or questioned the inclusion of several county legislators on the IDA's membership, and the process itself.  Dryden resident Joe Wilson said Cargill won't leave Lansing if the abatement is not granted, because they must remain where the salt is to be mined.

Resident Julie Boles said that not enough information had been presented, a sentiment echoed by Daniel Eikel, who bitterly charged the company lied to residents, telling them the shaft was meant only as an emergency exit.  Eikel had also spoken against the project in 2012 when Cargill held a public information meeting in Lansingville at which former Mine Manager Russ Givens explained the main reasons for a more northern-located shaft are to get personnel into and out of the mine faster and to provide essential air and electrical power.

Cargill Mine

Resident John Dennis was the only speaker who did not respect the allowed speaking time, speaking over McDaniel and others, and going beyond a second time allotment granted to and ceded to Dennis by resident Dan Konowalo.  He presented a map showing the current mining permit limits, saying mining further north under Cayuga Lake is unnecessary because there is plenty of unmined area in Lansing south of the existing mine shaft.

The IDA voted Thursday to approve the sales tax abatement, 7 - 1.

If it took 95 years to mine 7.5 miles, it may take another 95 years before the company needs yet another shaft further north along the lake, but Wilczynski isn’t looking quite that far ahead yet.

"I guess in 95 years we’ll see if we’re still driving cars or hovercraft,' he says.  "We’ll see."

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