It was a full house at Thursday’s meeting of the Leavenworth County Commission as people turned out to express opposition to a proposed poultry plant near Tonganoxie.

It was a full house at Thursday’s meeting of the Leavenworth County Commission as people turned out to express opposition to a proposed poultry plant near Tonganoxie.

“There’s a lot of people in this community that are upset,” Jim Cunningham said.

He was one of several people who addressed the commission during the meeting.

The County Commission meeting room was crowded with people and others stood by in the hallway.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith acknowledged that most of the audience members were there because of a proposal by Tyson Foods to open a $320 million facility near Tonganoxie.

The facility would include a processing plant, hatchery and feed mill. Company officials say the complex would employ about 1,600 people.

People who voiced opposition Thursday to the project expressed concerns about the possible environmental and health impacts of the facility as well as the possibility that the plant may draw workers who are in the country illegally.

Cecilia Pruitt expressed concern that the Tonganoxie public schools do not have the space or staff to accommodate the additional children of people who may come to the community to work at the plant.

Jarret Pruitt said the lack of transparency about the project has been disturbing.

Details about the project were announced Tuesday. Before the information was made public, local officials referred to the project only as Project Sunset.

Smith acknowledged Thursday that County Administrator Mark Loughry had signed a non-disclosure agreement concerning the project on behalf of the commission.

That agreement was said to have been signed in June.

Jarret Pruitt argued the poultry plant will forever change the landscape of the community in a negative way.

“We will forever be known as a chicken town,” he said.

Smith said commissioners could not hear from everyone who was in attendance Thursday. But he said there will be public meetings related to the project in the future.

“We do want to hear from you,” he said.

Smith said additional action will have to be taken before Tyson Foods can open the plant.

"They do not have a building permit," he said.

He said the site of the proposed facility also will have to be rezoned for industrial use.

The County Commission and Tyson Foods also will have to enter into a development agreement.

Smith encouraged people who are opposed to the project to obtain copies of a protest petition that was prepared before the start of Thursday’s meeting.

Copies of the petition were available in the Leavenworth County Clerk’s Office. According to the document, the “petition is not valid to either force or prohibit any action by the Board of Commissioners but an expression of my opposition to the proposed Tyson project.”

Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked county staff members to research some of the statements made by speakers regarding the operations of Tyson Foods.

A group calling themselves Citizens Against Project Sunset will have an organizational meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday at Chieftain Park in Tonganoxie.

State Rep. Jim Karleskint, whose district includes Tonganoxie, has confirmed that he will participate in a town hall meeting that will focus on the proposed Tyson Foods facility. State Rep. Willie Dove and state Sen. Tom Holland also are expected to participate.

The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at the VFW Hall, 910 E. First St. in Tonganoxie.

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