Jen Peak has watched a community mobilize for a common cause in the span of a week.
She was in downtown Tonganoxie on Sept. 5 when Gov. Sam Brownback and officials from Tyson Foods Inc. announced plans for a massive $320 million chicken-processing plant on two properties along Leavenworth County Road 1 south of Tonganoxie.
With opposition signs in tow, Peak and other members of Citizens Against Project Sunset were at the announcement.
The grass-roots movement has existed for just more than a week.
It has a Facebook group with more than 4,200 members as of Tuesday. Its Facebook page has some 1,400 likes.
The group held an organizational meeting Saturday at Chieftain Park in Tonganoxie.
Peak said it was thought the rally attracted about 1,000 people. Laptops were set up to collect information from folks interested in the CAPS movement. She said the group now has about 600 people in the database after Saturday.
“It was a tremendous turnout,” she said. Tyson announced an estimated work force of 1,600 employees. Local residents have voiced concerns about Tonganoxie handling that influx regarding infrastructure and the school system, even if only a portion of the workforce ends up moving to Tonganoxie. The community currently has a population of about 5,500 people.
Opponents also are worried that their property values are going to sink. Water- and air-quality concerns have been at the top of the list, along with employee conditions, as many opponents cite lawsuits and fines against Tyson.
Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tyson Foods more than $263,000 for 15 “serious” and two “repeated” workplace safety violations. That was at the company’s chicken-processing facility in Center, Texas.
In 2013, Tyson agreed to pay a $3.95 million civil penalty to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations covering prevention of chemical accidents at facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
(Read more: TonganoxieMirror.com stories)