Poultry Plant Opposition Grows

Tyson's $320 million plant would bring 1,600 jobs.

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to build a massive poultry processing complex near Tonganoxie has spawned a groundswell of local opposition and three area lawmakers now say they also will oppose the plant.

The $320 million plant planned by Tyson Foods Inc. is expected to bring 1,600 jobs to a town of about 5,000 in northeastern Kansas. 

After between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended a town hall Friday night, local state representatives said they also would oppose the plant's construction, drawing large cheers from the crowd, The Lawrence Journal-World reported . 

Residents fear the plant could bring odor, pollution and double the school district's enrollment. They also are upset the proposal was kept secret until it was announced earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback and other officials. 

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Reps. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie and Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, all said during the meeting they had concerns about the proposal but had not decided before hearing from the crowd. By the end of the meeting, they were all persuaded to oppose the plant. 

"We did not hear one single person get up here on this stage tonight and tell us why this Tyson plant needs to come to this community," Holland said. "Given the response we've seen tonight, myself, Rep. Karleskint (and) Rep. Dove can unconditionally guarantee to you that we're going to work to defeat this proposal." 

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, who was not part of the panel, also said he would oppose the plant. 

A grassroots movement calling itself Citizens Against Project Sunset has a Facebook group with more than 4,200 members and 1,400 likes. Yard signs touting "No Tyson in Tongie" have sprung up around town. 

Community activist Jen Peak said they sold about 600 signs in 30 minutes at a recent rally and hundreds more people have asked where they can get signs. 

Opponents say the plant's effects will reach nearby communities. Among them is Eudora, roughly 10 miles from the proposed plant site. A Eudora Against Tyson Facebook page has been created. 

Also joining the fight is nationally known environmental activist Erin Brockowich, who grew up in Lawrence. She posted various pollution concerns about Tyson on the group's Facebook page. 

Concerned local residents have packed recent meetings of the Tonganoxie City Council and Leavenworth County Commission. 

The project must win support from the county commission before it proceeds, including a vote on a requested tax abatement and a vote to rezone the property for industrial use. 

The company plans to buy a 300-acre site and also build a hatchery and feed mill. If the project is approved, the company plans to break ground this fall. 

The plant would be able to process 1.25 million birds a week, and Tyson plans to contract with local farmers. State officials have said they project the plant's payroll, payments to farmers and purchases of feed and utilities will total $150 million a year.