FREMONT -- After a long, raucous meeting in Nickerson Monday night, a Fremont City Council study session, held to take public comment on the proposed Project Rawhide poultry plant operation, was, well, short and mostly silent.
The meeting adjourned two minutes after being called to order; no public comment was received.
“Project Rawhide has decided to step back and re-evaluate all of their options,” Mayor Scott Getzschman said. “The Greater Fremont Development Council will continue to communicate with the client, but because of these developments there will be nothing for this council to consider this evening or to propose … and we will have no public comment.”
The mayor told the dismayed, irritated audience that the still unnamed company that wants to build the plant just north of Fremont, near Nickerson, is listening and acknowledges it may have made mistakes regarding the concealment of its identity. Getzschman did not reveal that identity.
“What you’re seeing is that people are very concerned about the type of businesses that we’re bringing into this city," City Council candidate Matt Bechtel said after the meeting. "They are concerned about the type of dynamics that a plant like this will bring. You would think that a company would want to address these issues right away. That’s what leadership is, and we’re just not seeing that quite yet. But I do appreciate them taking the time to try to listen to people, tonight.”
He said people are concerned about the appearance of secrecy about the proposal to process 344,000 chickens a day and recruit area farmers to raise chickens for the plant.
Getzschman said the project would have an economic impact of $1.2 billion a year.
“Truly, I think if they’re going to come forward, period, they have to tell the citizens of Fremont and Dodge County who they are and how they plan to move forward with the project,” he said.
Area residents' concerns include health, the environment, strains on infrastructure and the school system and a possible influx of Muslim and Somalian workers and whether they'll be legal.
“Even if there’s one, there’s one too many,” said John Wiegert, adding that he is afraid of what's going on in the world regarding terrorism and immigration.
The Nickerson Village Board voted unanimously on Monday against rezoning land necessary for the project.