Tonganoxie’s residents didn’t want Tyson Foods and its chickens near their town. Should Sedgwick County?
That’s what residents may have to decide for themselves if the poultry processing giant decides it wants to put a $320 million, 1,600-job plant here. Cloud County in north-central Kansas and Montgomery County in southeast Kansas are the other finalists.
People living in the Tonganoxie area had concerns about water runoff and the smell that a poultry processing plant can produce. A Tyson spokesman addressed those concerns, but the company has had to pay multi-million dollar fines for violating the Clean Air Act in Kansas and three other states.
Were Tonganoxie’s concerns legitimate? It wasn’t willing to find out, getting out of an oral agreement before it got any further. That led to a new set of finalists.
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In the latest three-county competition, Sedgwick County has at least one advantage. It would be able to absorb new workers easier than Cloud and Montgomery counties, which might see their schools bulge to capacity with an immediate influx of families. A critic of the Tonganoxie proposal said many of the jobs will go to immigrant workers and increase the number of students who don’t speak English.
City, county and business leaders are working on a plan to attract Tyson, a plan that almost certainly include tax incentives. Part of those plans should also address the same concerns Tonganoxie had.
What will be stronger: The smell of money or the smell of chickens?