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Tensions run high in Tonganoxie over Tyson Foods Inc. plant

Posted: 7:07 PM, Sep 15, 2017
Updated: 2017-09-15 23:46:55-04

TONGANOXIE, Kan.- Tensions were high in Tonganoxie on Friday as Leavenworth County residents took part in a public forum about the proposed Tyson Foods Inc.

Democratic Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, along with Republican Reps. Jim Karleskint, of Tonganoxie, and Willie Dove, of Bonner Springs, co-hosted the forum.

Approximately 1,000 Leavenworth County residents showed up to Chieftain Park, to voice their concerns. 

Tyson Foods Inc. plans to spend $320 million on a processing facility near Tonganoxie and it has many residents upset.

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“No Tyson in Tongie” yard signs were a hot-selling item at the forum.

To show how he feels about Tyson’s plans to build a processing plant, Brady Brown bought 20 signs.

The consensus, no one wants the project at the edge of town.

“I don’t want to smell the smell I don't my kids to be impacted by it. I don't want our educators to be overwhelmed by an influx of students in their schools,” Sharon Sullivan, a resident said.

The forum involved a Q&A session that had the politicians jotting notes on a piece of paper as residents brought their questions, their concerns and criticism over Tyson’s plans dubbed “Project Sunset”.

The public forum comes amid opposition to the proposed plant first announced on September 5.

“It’s going to be a dramatic change if it happens, I mean it’s kind of a shock factor for the city of Tonganoxie, it’s kind of a shock factor for our community,” said Curtis Oroke, Tonganoxie City Councilman.

That shock prompting some residents to let their emotions get the best of them.

Oroke is just one city council member witnessing it firsthand. 

“I’ve had death threats, I’ve had probably 700-800 messages on my phone, and I’ve had Facebook messages,” said Oroke.

On Wednesday, his property was vandalized. 

“I’ve had my mailbox plowed over by a gentleman a couple of days ago,” said Oroke.

Oroke said he believes things are getting out of hand because so many questions have gone unanswered.

“These people want answers and I can’t provide them if I don’t have them.

The plant is expected to bring 1,600 jobs to a town of nearly 5,000. 

While creating jobs may sound positive, residents said their biggest concern is environmental problems the plant will bring.

“Pollution is probably my number one concern since they’re the number one polluter and we’re so close to the plant,” said Diana Buck, Leavenworth County resident.

Buck just moved her family to Leavenworth County from Western Kansas.

She said it was to get away from several meat packing plants near her former home.  

“We were so excited to come back here and be in the county and have everything clean and fresh and green,” she said.

Construction began on Buck’s new home in May.  It will sit only one mile away from the proposed plant site.  

“All the beautiful countryside we see now, we’re not going to be able to see it’s just going to be grower farms,” said Buck.

Residents said they were also upset over the secrecy behind the proposal.  

“We would just like more information, we want to feel like our voice is being heard because a lot of people feel like they’re just kind of being hushed right now,” Besty Pruitt, Citizens Against Project Sunset.

Leavenworth County residents and groups who oppose Tyson’s proposal are hoping for more transparency from those in favor.