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More than 300 local jobs held in legal limbo

More than 300 local jobs held in legal limbo

By Tom Price Jr.

It was wastewater problems that originally led to the shutdown of the Lindsay Olive Growers Plant on Tulare Road in 1992, and now it's another wastewater problem that is preventing Lindsay Foods, LLC from reopening the doors to the facility.

According to City Manager Scot Townsend the frozen vegetable processing plant, which was originally scheduled to begin operations this month, is experiencing some minor setbacks.

"The big issue is wastewater," Townsend said. "It's not like it's a problem, there is just a great amount of biodegradable solids in the water."

The Lindsay Gazette attempted to contact Lindsay Foods, LLC president Paul Black, but he refused comment at this time.

When and if the doors finally do open it will be the end of more than a decade's worth of court battles and name changes. In 1992 three local land owners won a court dispute Against the Lindsay Olive Growers Plant regarding the presence of brine in their wastewater. Brine is a salt saturated water used in the processing of olives. Following the decision the Regional Water Control Quality board levied a cease and desist order to the plant, adding to the financial strains already present due to crop freezes and the cost of the lawsuit. A culmination of problems eventually led to the facility's closure.

In 1999 it reopened under the name Console Foods after the USDA approved a guaranteed loan of $10 million to the company. But by June of 1999 the building, which had been the base of Lindsay's financial structure for more three quarters of a century, was closed once again due to a financial collapse. As was revealed in a December 2002 trial, then USDA acting California Director, Charles Clendenin reduced the already approved $10 loan to $7.9, not allowing any of the newly approved loan to be used for working capital. This decision did little but to vindicate Console Foods of any wrong doing.

After Hibernia Bank foreclosed on the property none other than Mort Console, the companies namesake, showed up on the Tulare County Courthouse steps to reclaim the facility at auction. The presently renamed Lindsay Foods, LLC is looking to open the doors to an estimated 500 employees, but yet another obstacle stands in the way.

"We're trying to find a solution to this problem," Townsend said. "When it is solved they will be ready to move forward, but right now there is no timetable."

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