Costs rise on Cruse meat facility

The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners approved $75,000 in extra funding to complete the water and wastewater management system being built at Cruse Meats Harvest Facility in Concord.

Though the county portion of the water/wastewater system has risen to $460,000, the Cruse family - through surcharges applied to customers - eventually will reimburse the county the entire amount needed to develop the system, said County Manager Mike Downs.

"From the staff level, we knew there were going to be extra costs," said Downs. "We knew the system was going to be in excess of that (initial) $385,000, because it had not been bid out yet. But the agreement did give room for additional expenses once it was bid out."

The first large-scale, state-regulated meat processing plant in Cabarrus County is expected to be operational by June 15. County extension agents expect hundreds of cattlemen throughout a 10-county area to take advantage of the local processor. Similar operations are 75 miles away or more in Wilkesboro and Greensboro.

The project, part of the commissioners' Sustainable Community Initiative, gives farmers a local option for slaughtering and processing their livestock for sale locally. Downs said the county partnered with Cruse Meat Processing to develop the facility because of its potential benefits to the county's economy and agriculture industry.

The company's existing facility processes meat but does not slaughter animals.

"Livestock makes up a large part of the county's farming industry," said Downs. "The county will be paid back by that surcharge but also from the local economy being enhanced. It will provide opportunities for our local farmers, and those in the region, to save on operating costs."

The facility is being built beside the Cruse family business on Rimer Road, east of Concord. The 4,546-square-foot addition to Cruse Meat Processing was designed to slaughter about 25 animals - mainly cattle and pork - per day.

In June, county commissioners awarded the construction bid to J.E. Goodrum Co. Inc. for $847,000. Construction agreements were finalized Aug. 15.

The county is using a $675,000 grant from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Other costs will be covered by previously appropriated county money, but only the water and wastewater system portion will be reimbursed, said Downs.

The county is leasing the site to Cruse Meats, which is taking on all costs associated with using the site. Eventually, Cruse Meats will own the facility, but not for about 20 years, depending on fees generated by water use and the wastewater facility.

The Cruse family started its business in 1953 and moved to its current location in 1973.

In 2007, area beef cattle farms sold 7,237 cattle for $4.47 million. In a 2007 survey, 80 percent of the estimated 2,000 meat producers in 10 surrounding counties said they supported building the facility.