Nebraska Community to Pay for Chicken Plant's Water, Sewer Study

June 3, 2016 06:50 AM

Fremont, Neb. will pay for a study of water and sewer services at a proposed chicken plant site despite opponents' arguments that doing so violates state law.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to spend nearly $200,000 for the study, which city officials say will focus on extending services to the site selected by Costco Wholesale. City utilities manager Brian Newton told the Omaha World-Herald that if the payment violates a law, the city will just bill Costco.

The warehouse retail giant is working with a Georgia chicken processor to build and operate a plant to provide poultry for its stores.

But Jane Kleeb, founder of the activist group Bold Nebraska, said governments can't spend taxpayer money and plan on getting reimbursed. She said the company should pay up front.

Opponents have raised concerns about low wages in the poultry industry, corporate livestock ownership and the potential for diseases like the avian flu. Backers have said the plant would create 1,100 new jobs and an expected $1.2 billion economic impact each year as it processes nearly 350,000 birds every day.

The plant would be located on a more than 400-acre plot of farmland south of Fremont. The owners of the land and Costco have asked the city to annex and rezone the land. The city is expended to consider their petition later this month.

Fremont resident Jeff Karls told the council that the city should require Costco to also pay for economic and environmental impact studies before a decision on building the plant is made.

The plant could open in 2018.

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