|Minatare Packing plant discussion becomes heated|
|June 18, 2015 Jerry Purvis|
New Minatare police chief - Robert Brian McFarland
A proposal to offer Minatare as a possible site for a meatpacking plant was approved 3-1 by council members, although the discussion turned contentious at times.
Steve Reisig of Scottsbluff was the first to speak to the council and said there were positive and negative factors involved in a potential plant.
“My objective tonight is to ask you to table the vote on letting the packing plant come in,” he said. “If it’s a viable company, they’ll be back to discuss it next month. I’d like you to be better informed so you can make a better decision.”
Reisig outlined several problems the plant had in finding a location in the Panhandle area. The South Korean investors first tried North Dakota, where cattle producers and the state economic development agency lost millions of dollars.
Reisig said the Korean investors are more interested in the government program that allows foreign investors to move to America and obtain green cards.
Reisig said the investors’ next stop was Torrington, where the city council wasn’t interested. The proposal was then pitched to Scottsbluff. but further research by Twin Cities Development (TCD) proved the idea not to be viable. Similar attempts were turned down in Bridgeport, Gering and Banner County, he said.
Reisig also said the school turnover rate in cities with packing plants is about 80 percent. That would burden the schools with high student turnover rates.
Gering resident Bubba Anthony also spoke. He was also an opponent of the packing plant proposal when Gering was being considered.
“A plant of this size is a Panhandle issue,” Anthony said. “That’s why Scottsbluff and Gering looked at it. But all nine TCD board members voted against it.”
He said news reports have said Gering, Bridgeport and Minatare are all being considered for a possible site. “None of these places have approved anything. I don’t know where that statement came from, but it’s misleading.”
Anthony said he’s visited with many people in Lexington, which has a meatpacking plant. He said people are carpooling their children to other towns for school.
But Tim Cody, superintendent of Minatare Schools, spoke in favor of Minatare being considered as a possible site, which started a small shouting match with opponents before Mayor Jerry Harms called for order.
“I’ve listened to three opponents against them, but not a one of these gentlemen are from our community,” Cody said. “When I came here as school superintendent, people were asking how much longer we could remain open. We’re in a dying community and people from Gering and Scottsbluff don’t care about that. I’ve studied this proposal and I’m not afraid to take the gamble. I want this community to survive.”
In a less controversial move, council members approved hiring Robert Brian McFarland as its new police chief.
“I’m the former police chief of the Decatur police department,” he said in an introduction. “I started out in October 2000 with the Hall County Sheriff and have been in law enforcement since then.”
Council members approved the hire once a required background check is completed by the state.