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Odor law could render Provo plant
Proposal might force Kuhni Sons to close

PROVO -- A proposed law aimed at regulating animal carcass processing plants could do more than stop a malodorous smell from wafting over the city.

It could shut down John Kuhni Sons.Mayor Lewis Billings has maintained that it's not the city's intent to close the plant. But forcing it to meet tough regulations could doom the 62-year-old company. Even the administration concedes that.

"They're going to have to make substantial capital improvements in their business in order to comply with the law," said Bob Stockwell, Provo chief administrative officer. "It tells them they've got to make a pretty serious business decision."

City officials have tried for nearly a year to find a way to stop the sometimes nauseating odors drifting out of the plant, which abuts East Bay Golf Course and is a chip shot from the East Bay Business Center. Residents, golfers and businesses have complained that the pungent smell makes them ill.

The periodic stench chases away people who might otherwise shop, eat, play or spend the night in Provo, city leaders say. The south end of town boasts many stores, restaurants, motels and the Provo Towne Centre mall.

The City Council will discuss the seven-page draft ordinance for the first time Tuesday.

Although the proposed law targets rendering plants in general, it will surely come to be known in Provo as the "Kuhni ordinance." Kuhni Sons is the only rendering operation in Utah County and one of two in the state.

The state Department of Agriculture says the business is essential to the state because it keeps dead animals from winding up in landfills or places where they could pose a health hazard. Grocery stores, ranches and Utah's hog farms depend on the company to dispose of carcasses and meat scraps.

Kevin Kuhni, company president, didn't want to comment on the proposed law.

"We knew they were working on something, but we have not been involved," he said. Kuhni did serve on a city-appointed committee assigned to find ways to curb the smells. He has said Kuhni Sons is doing all it can and that it will never be odor free.

Kuhni Sons would face closure unless it complied with the ordinance within 180 days of its adoption. The city has offered to finance $350,000 worth of new odor-control equipment, but the company has said it can't afford it.

Talks between the company and the city about possible solutions to the odor problem have stalled. "This is really the last step we can take," Stockwell said.

The proposed law attempts to regulate all aspects of a rendering plant's operations.

Kuhni Sons would have to keep daily logs on wind direction, equipment breakdowns, complaints and total weight of animal carcasses and byproducts received.

Kuhni Sons would have to call the mayor's office immediately whenever a malfunction stinks up the neighborhood.

If the company doesn't, according to the proposed ordinance, the owner could be charged with a misdemeanor crime and assessed civil penalties as well. Fines for noncompliance could be as high as $500 a day.

The plant's odor-control system must also undergo an annual inspection at Kuhni Sons' expense, according to the proposed law.