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Council members question secrecy: Authorization of staff travel funds questioned
March 27, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Although Gering is researching the possibility of a meatpacking plant for the community, two city council members are upset they weren’t kept in the loop.

Council member Rebecca Shields said it was on Facebook where she first heard about a 10-person trip, including City Treasurer John Mejia, to southeast Asia with investors of the proposed Future Food Energy facility.

Shields called other council members, but none of them knew about the trip. “I’m shocked to find out this was happening without any consent from council,” she said during Monday night’s regular council meeting. “The city and staff are supposed to be transparent. They’re working for the citizens of Gering, so we should all know what’s going on to make sure decisions are being made for the right reasons.”

She also said council should have been given the opportunity to let staff know in which direction to proceed.

Council members Jill McFarland and Troy Cowen both said not knowing about the trip made them “feel stupid” when residents asked them about it.

“A citizen came to us and we had no answers,” McFarland said. “Some people knew more about it than we did, and that’s not right.”

The Korea-based Future Food Energy had previously proposed a packing plant in Scottsbluff. But after several public hearings, the proposal was dropped after public opposition. After that, Gering Mayor Ed Mayo proposed investigating Gering as a potential site for the facility.

Mayo had earlier said the council had already given its blessing to investigate, and the trip was a part of that process.

Representatives for Future Food Energy have already stated it was premature to speculate whether a meatpacking plant would work in the community.
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