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Fremont remains divided on Costco chicken plant

Posted at 7:25 PM, Dec 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-27 20:28:19-05
Costco is requesting an amendment that would increase the cost of their project from $180 million to $275 million.
 
Fremont city leaders are largely behind the effort and are excited about how big Costco wants the chicken plant to be - about 360,000 square feet.
 
"A project like this comes to a region, comes to a community once in a lifetime and truly, this is an opportunity for the region and the community and the farmers' network," said Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman.
 
Not to this farmer, Nebraska Communities United Director Randy Ruppert says a chicken plant would do more harm than good to Nebraska.
 
"With this additional nitrogen runoff, phosphorus from the chicken litter and the output of the wastewater treatment centers, we're going to be dangerously raising the nitrogen levels in the water," Rupert said.
 
Getzschman disagrees.
 
He says they'll filter the chicken waste so it's pollution free when released from the facility, that could process as many as 2 million chickens per week.
 
"It goes into the lagoons then it's separated and reduced, then it flows to the wastewater treatment plant where it's cleaned and filtered even more and it's basically transferred to the river," Getzschman said.
 
Ruppert says the city is not listening to opponents.
 
Some of those opponents are suing the city for what they say is illegally blighted farmland for the project.
 
"Fremont is an unusual little city and the city government has had their way for many many years to where they would not listen to the citizenry and go ahead with their special projects," Ruppert said.
 
Mayor Getzchman disagrees and says they'll personally listen to anyone's concerns about the project.
 
Rebecca Winterfeld has lived in Fremont more than 20 years and says her friends are equally divided on the chicken plant.
 
"They think it's going to have an odor,” Winterfeld said. “I don't know. They think it's going to bring potentially illegal immigration.”
 
Winterfeld agrees with the city and says a projected $1.3 billion per year impact to the area far outweighs the negatives.
 
"When you have jobs you are going to bring people who are going to spend money and it's going to be good for our retail and housing,” she said. “So, I think it will be a good thing for us."