Archive for Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tyson puts chicken plant on hold, citing commission’s withdrawal of bond support

Area residents and lawmakers gather in Tonganoxie's Chieftain Park, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, for a public forum about a proposed Tyson chicken facility south of the town.

Area residents and lawmakers gather in Tonganoxie's Chieftain Park, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, for a public forum about a proposed Tyson chicken facility south of the town.

September 19, 2017, 4:47 p.m. Updated September 19, 2017, 8:11 p.m.

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Tyson Foods Inc. is putting a proposed $320 million project near Tonganoxie on hold, a company official announced Tuesday.

The announcement was made through an open letter from Tyson to the Leavenworth County community, sent via email to The Mirror newspaper of Tonganoxie and other media outlets. In the letter, group president of poultry Doug Ramsey wrote that the company is delaying the process in light of Monday’s decision by the Leavenworth County Commission to rescind intent to issue $500 million in industrial revenue bonds for the project.

The letter mentioned Tyson’s 5,700 “team members” who are proud to live and work in Kansas and the company’s annual economic impact of $2.4 billion in the state as reasons Tyson thought Leavenworth County was a good fit.

But the letter also eventually explained the status of the project.

“We’d still like to get to know each other, however, after Monday’s reversal of support by the Leavenworth County commissioners, we will put our plans in your community on hold,” the letter read. “We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.

“This is a good project that we are deeply passionate about,” the letter continued. “It’s important to the future of our company and our ability to serve our customers. We also believe it will be a significant boost — and not just economically — for the right community.”

Jen Peak, an organizer for Citizens Against Project Sunset, said the statement was good news, but said “No Tyson In Tongie” signs wouldn’t be coming down anytime soon.

“As an organization and as a community, we’re very encouraged by the statement from Tyson,” Peak said. “We’re also concerned the statement leaves the door open for elsewhere in Leavenworth County or another neighboring county.”

She said the organization would continue to stay connected with local and state officials, as well as environmental and agricultural specialists, “to make sure Tyson doesn’t pursue a plant in our area in the future.”

The process became public Sept. 5, when Gov. Sam Brownback and other state officials joined with Tyson officials to announce a proposed $320 million state-of-the-art chicken-processing facility that would span more than 300 acres on two sites a couple of miles south of Tonganoxie and roughly 10 miles from Lawrence

The sudden announcement, though, received instant pushback, including from an area resident voicing disapproval during the announcement ceremony. Ramsey and Brownback both assured the audience that a series of town hall meetings would take place for citizens.

But the only meetings engaging the public the last two weeks were meetings of the Tonganoxie City Council and the Leavenworth County Commission, which drew overflow crowds of mostly upset residents. State legislators also held a town hall meeting in a Tonganoxie park, where some 2,000 residents gathered.

On Monday, county commissioners voted, 2-1, to rescind a previous intent to issue $500 million in industrial revenue bonds for the project that would provide for 80 percent tax abatements for 10 years. Later in the meeting, longtime Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he was stepping down from the board Thursday due to health issues. His was one of the votes favoring to rescind intent to issue the bonds, so that decision could be in limbo depending on how his successor votes in the future.

Tonganoxie, meanwhile, was looking at extending sewer services to the plant to the tune of $1.3 million.

But at Monday night’s Tonganoxie City Council meeting, after nearly two hours of citizens mostly sharing concerns about the project, council members started stating publicly that they didn’t think the sewer project made sense anymore. The council opted to put those intentions to a vote at its next meeting after four of five members wanted to cut ties. The fifth member, Kara Reed, wanted more information before making a decision at the next meeting.

Council member Curtis Oroke said he thought Tyson’s decision to stop the project was “self-inflicted as far as I’m concerned,” adding that he thought Tyson didn’t share enough information up front and left local officials to answer questions.

Comments

Mark Kostner 9 months ago

TONGIE KNOCKS OUT TYSON! That town is heavyweight champion, kudos to those townspeople for standing up and fighting back. The chicken plant is plucked. We can joke about why the chicken plant crossed the road. Although it would be wise to keep an eye out just in case Tyson and their political lackeys try to pull another fast one.

Jillian Andrews 9 months ago

Bye bye workers with permanent disabilities because Tyson ignores OSHA rules.

Louie White 9 months ago

Bye Bye yourself, move out of the area if you don't like it.

Daniel Kennamore 9 months ago

Ah, NIMBYism at it's finest.

This is also a microcosm of why blue-collar workers in the rust belt are beyond hopeless.

"We want jobs!....wait...not THOSE jobs!"

Jillian Andrews 9 months ago

So I'm sure you'd be the first to apply....since you don't mind working in blood and sh** and losing your fingers or other body parts. Yeah, those damn spoiled blue collar folks! What do they know!

Bob Summers 9 months ago

This is great news!

Congenital Liberals redistribution of wealth triumphs over working for a living!!

Whoo hoo!!

Jillian Andrews 9 months ago

Redistribution of wealth?! LOL. What a joke. Set down the Kool-Aid, troll.

Theodore Calvin 9 months ago

Ahhh, personal freedom at it's finest. If their community didn't want it, which it appears was the case, then I don't believe you have any room to criticize. You hate the government, but then want people to capitulate to them when they ink some back room deal and foist things upon communities that they don't want?

Clark Coan 9 months ago

Hurrah! Sometimes People Power works. Viva Home Rule as well.

Steve Jacob 9 months ago

I think we all forgot about history. It was a weekend in September nine years ago, when Lehman Brother went under, the banks had so much debt they where not sure if they could open that Monday. I know Lawrence did not suffer as much from the Great Recession because of KU as others, but we have not prepared for the next recession. We are in the longest recovery in our history and have managed only 1% rise in interest rates and have done nothing to lower the debt in good times, and a dysfunctional Congress. That's why those jobs would come in handy, the next recession, we are on our own. No bailouts, no printing of money, Fed can't do much right now, and cross our fingers we are not at war.

Louie White 9 months ago

Meh, take that garbage somewhere else.

Barbara Johnston 9 months ago

Democracy in action. The people of Tonganoxie and surrounding areas spoke, and the city council and county commission responded to the message. For those 1600 jobs, why not invest in renewable energy, and create jobs that way? Or invest in job training for unemployed? Or infrastructure improvement?

Steve Jacob 9 months ago

Renewable energy is heavily subsidized, we should protest that.

Greg Cooper 9 months ago

It's not as heavily subsidized as oil, Steve. So what?

Rick Aldrich 9 months ago

I don't like where Tonginoxie is, can we tear it down?

Sherry Lynn 9 months ago

Way to go Tongie!!! My grandfather would be proud! This was part of the land he used to farm, many years ago! It was not about the people who would have been employeed there. Because all people deserve to be working in a safe environment with suitable work conditions, this was not that type of place. Animals deserve to be be treated humanely, this company was not known to have a good reputation, when it comes to the humane treatment of Chickens. I am glad that you who live in and around Tonganoxie stood up and fight! Now just do not try Franklin County next! Thank you Signed Animals are people who have either fur or feathers

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