Dixon, Ill., Mayor Jim Burke said representatives from St. Marys Cement approached him five months ago to discuss restarting manufacturing operations in the town, reported www.saukvalley.com. About 90 employees lost their jobs when St. Marys ceased operations almost six years ago. A few workers remained to oversee the plant’s use as a distribution terminal.
Mayor Burke said talks were in very early stages, so he was surprised to see the company’s recent classified ad in Sauk Valley Media publications looking for more than 65 workers. “We’re optimistic, and it would be a great thing to have the plant up and running again,” Burke said. “But honestly, I saw the ad and thought they might be jumping the gun.”
Restarting operations would require a large capital investment, and the company is looking for help. “We’re working with them to see if there are incentives to make it all work,” explained Burke. “We would like to get Senator Dick Durbin involved as we look at state options.”
The company had attributed the closing to a deteriorating economy and rising energy costs, but the Environmental Protection Agency may have also played a role. The EPA fined St. Marys Cement and co-owner St. Barbara Cement $800,000 for violations of the Clean Air Act. In addition, the settlement called for the companies to spend nearly $2 million to upgrade pollution control on three of its four kilns. The fourth kiln had to be replaced or shut down.
EPA said the companies illegally modified the kilns at the Dixon plant in a manner that increased harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. In addition to failing to install the proper pollution-control equipment, the companies were cited for failing to get the proper permit before making modifications.