Legal battles continue over South Bend ethanol plant - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Legal battles continue over South Bend ethanol plant


There's been a long legal battle over the future of South Bend's ethanol plant.

Last month, two liquidators bought the building in a bankruptcy sale. Now another company wants to buy and THEY say the auction was illegal. Neighbors are hoping whoever takes over will keep the plant's pumps running, otherwise they worry their homes will flood again!

FOX28 was in the courtroom Wednesday, where the parties involved say the plant's future is still uncertain.

"It's extremely tough, it's difficult on the employees that are left and as managers, it's a struggle," says Michael Groenke, New Energy maintenance superintendent.

Groenke says the wait is hard. "We were hoping to hear that an ethanol producing company would purchase us and put us back in a forward direction."

But in Wednesday's bankruptcy hearing, Groenke walked out of the court room with no more answers for his future. "There's a lot of ethanol companies out there, that there's always a possibility that one would step in and pick us up."

But in bankruptcy court, the judge granted two liquidation companies the right to move forward with their plans.

"Even if it goes into the hands of a liquidator, that doesn't mean the end of New Energy facility out there as an operating company," says Rudy Yakym, Jr.  

Yakym is interested in negotiating with the liquidators, because he says he wants to buy the plant. "There's a lot of hope and I would be shocked to see the plant torn down."

He's not the only one who wants to see this plant up and running.

"We would buy the plant, we're going to improve it, we'll double the number of jobs," says Robert Salazar, CEO of Natural Chem. 

He wants to buy the plant, but instead of negotiating with liquidators, he wants to nullify the auction and have a new one. "In our view, the auction was tainted by bidder collision."

Which is why he took the issue to court, but the judge approved the original contract with the liquidators and now Salazar is appealing in district court with hopes to buy the plant in a new auction. "That would be our goal. Buy it, improve it and resume operations."

So for now, there's still no answer.

"It's delayed again," says Groenke.

Employers just hope that whoever gets their hands on the plant will continue operations.

"It would be good for the city of South Bend and the employees in the area, we still hold hope," says Groenke.

The plant has gotten a lot of attention lately because of complaints from nearby residents.  They say with the plant shutdown, their homes have been flooding

The city has come up with a temporary fix for them by turning back on one of the pumps, but it is unclear how the sale would impact the flooding problem in the future.

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