Agriprocessors to re-open Wednesday - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Agriprocessors to re-open Wednesday

by Bryan Goettel

POSTVILLE (KWWL) - The gates at Agriprocessors have remained closed for almost three weeks, but thanks to an emergency advance from a St. Louis bank, the lifeblood of this community is set to re-open on Wednesday.

"Excellent," said employee Gary Pelkey.  "Let's go. Let's get started."

Six months ago, Gary Pelkey was homeless, living under a bridge in Indianapolis. He came to Postville to work at Agriprocessors. He hasn't been paid since October and hasn't worked since mid-November.

"I don't know man," said Pelkey.  "Living under a bridge was pretty easy compared to this because at least there I could determine my destiny from day-to-day."

"We are intending on paying people currently and starting to meet the back pay obligations," said bankruptcy trustee Joseph Sarachek.

Sarachek says a budget to resume operations will go through the end of next week. But he expects that to be extended for another three months.

"I think they're very positive in getting this plant up and running and they've given me a lot of hope," said Postville mayor Bob Penrod.

Much of that hope lies with Arnie Mikelberg and Alan Glueck.  Sarachek hired them to help bring Agriprocessors back to top operating standards.

"This is a very, very challenging situation," said Mikelberg.  "We need everyone's cooperation. We cannot make a mistake otherwise it will not work."

Sarachek says several parties have shown interest in eventually buying the plant. He believes about two hundred people will be back at work Wednesday. Pelkey says he and his co-workers lost trust in Agriprocessors old management, and now the new management needs to earn it back.

"I didn't come here to go somewhere else," said Pelkey.  "This isn't just a train station. This is...I want to make this my home."

Gary Pelkey and many other employees still have many questions, questions they hope to begin getting answers to at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday night. But at the end of the day, there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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