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Douglas County official says proposed Tyson plant a Lawrence issue, too

Members of the Douglas County Commission, Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board meet Sept. 18, 2017, at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center.

Members of the Douglas County Commission, Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board meet Sept. 18, 2017, at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center.

September 18, 2017

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Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman told city and school district leaders that they should all be concerned about the Tyson chicken-processing plant proposed for Tonganoxie.

At a joint meeting Monday of the Douglas County Commission, Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board, Thellman said the proposed plant is a serious issue for Northeast Kansas. Apart from the plant itself, she said farmers within a 50-mile radius of the plant would be recruited to raise chickens, resulting in trucks coming and going, and concerns of pollution.

“The environmental impact of that industry would be devastating,” Thellman said. “It’s regulated lightly (and) local control is limited.”

The $320 million chicken-processing plant, feed mill and hatchery would be located on 300 acres just south of Tonganoxie and about 10 miles from Lawrence. The plant would contract with northeast Kansas farmers and would process about 1.25 million birds per week.

In addition to the environmental consequences, Thellman said there would be economic consequences for the city, county and school district if the plant proceeds.

“The thought is any community close to the Tyson plant might see an influx of folks on low-wage jobs who would then need space in the schools, space in social services, that any community may not be prepared to offer right off the bat,” Thellman said. “So I think we all have an interest in keeping an eye on that proposal.”

At the announcement of the proposal earlier this month, Gov. Sam Brownback touted the project, which is expected to employ 1,600 people and inject $150 million into the Kansas economy annually. Doug Ramsey, group president for poultry at Tyson, said jobs at the plant would offer starting wages of between $13 and $15 an hour.

Thellman told meeting attendees that the city and county have formed a task force to consider the local consequences of the proposed plant, and invited the Lawrence school district to also take part. School board president Shannon Kimball said she agreed the district needed to be involved.

“It would affect us,” Kimball said, noting that Lawrence would also see an influx of students should the plant proceed. “And we have limited capacity for growth in that area.”

Thellman also said Tonganoxie residents are very organized and have already had an impact. She noted that Leavenworth County commissioners at their meeting Monday morning said they no longer are prepared to issue a key set of bonds for the proposed plant.

Among other topics, the governing bodies discussed the ongoing process to update the city-county comprehensive plan, coordinating to provide more information on the city bus service for public school students, and potential county involvement in the proposed Queens Road benefit district. Discussions for all topics are ongoing.

Contact city reporter Rochelle Valverde
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Comments

Steve Jacob 4 weeks ago

I would not want another county telling us what to build, not sure if we should get involved. And if you think $13-$15 is a low wage job in Lawrence you need to get out more.

Steve Jacob 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Another thing I want to point out. Nancy Thellman maybe the biggest political advocate.for our homeless shelter. What better way to help people get out of the shelter then a job, either at Tyson or replacing the hundreds of Lawrence workers who will work there.

Eric Kirkendall 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Well, there is no official definition of "low-wage job" but I think the author of this article was being generous.

To me a slaughterhouse job that requires some workers to wear adult diapers because they can't take bathroom breaks when they need to, has an injury rate 50% higher than other jobs, and at which you have a good chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from cutting up to 100 chickens per hour is about as bad as you can get.

These are among the dirtiest and nastiest jobs in America, with one of the worst employers, at a wage rate too low to induce people with many options to take the job (or stay for long), which is why they generally have to hire desperate immigrants.

http://www.kunc.org/post/poultry-plant-workers-face-abuse-job-report-says

Bob Summers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Let's see. What do I want to do. Make $13 an hour working or $12.74 an hour laying on the couch drinking beer and snuggling with my women.

Bob Summers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Who needs to work when I got Liberals in the government taking care of me and my women.

Rick Masters 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Ooooooh, hahaha, Thank you for repeating it. I get the joke now. SMH.

Erich Timkar 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Lawrence: We need living wage jobs!

Tyson: Here you go.

Lawrence: Woah, woah, woah! We don't need an "influx of folks on low-wage jobs who would then need space in the schools, space in social services."

Jeff Goodrick 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I know a lot of people in Lawrence that don't make $13 and hour and have health insurance too.

Mark Kostner 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I read where LV killed the zoning changes. Hopefully the chicken plant is now plucked. But Lawrence should keep an eye open. It does affect the community. This company and the kind of jobs it brings is not what you want. This isn't exactly an a KC Animal Health Corridor business. Since the plant was going to be a mere 10 miles from the city, Lawrence would have felt the effects of Tyson and they wouldn't have been good.

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