‘It’s going to disrupt our lives’: Tonganoxie residents worried about new manufacturing plant

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. — Tonganoxie is getting some pushback on a pet food manufacturing plant proposed for the town. It would be its seventh plant in the world. While city leaders are all for it, some community members worry about water, noise and air pollution. 

The Tonganoxie City Council approved the development agreement with Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

“Shock, dismay, tears,” Mary Gergick said.

Those are just a few words that describe Gergick’s reaction when she found out Hill’s Pet Nutrition might be going in across the street.

“It’s going to disrupt our lives out here on the farm,” Gergick said. 

The new 300,000-square-foot facility will bring 80 new jobs and cost $250,000.

Leavenworth County Development Corporation Executive Director Steve Jack said that’s the largest capital investment Leavenworth County has seen. 

“This will be state of the art and a brand-new facility,” Jack said. 

He said they still need final approval on the property tax abatement policy. The city said it will schedule a public hearing for that sometime in July or August. 

“We think it will be clean, high wage jobs and a good neighbor and new community member for Leavenworth County,” Jack said.

Gerick disagrees. She worries about the water supply.

According to Jack, “the company does not plan to use the aquifer underneath the business park, but rather has signed an agreement with the city.” 

They agreed to build a 2 million-gallon water tank on the business property.

Another concern for Gerrick is the environment.

“Anything coming off of this Hill’s plant is going to go right over the town of Tonganoxie, and the Eagle Valley sub-divisions and the grade school,” Gergick said.

Her family has owned this property for 50-plus years. She said the peace and quiet makes this place special.

“You won’t be hearing the birds singing and the fresh air,” Gergick said. “You’re going to here semis and something burping off the tower steam that comes off the plant.”

Jack said 222nd Street is an improved county road with direct access to Interstate 70.

There will be 12-16 trucks coming in a day and the same about leaving with canned produce, which Jack said should not release an odor. 

“One day you’re going to wake up and you’re going to smell the dog food plant and you’re going to hear the semis going in and out and the traffic congestion,” Gergick said.

Gergick signed up to speak during a general public comment during Tuesday’s city council meeting. 

If the city moves forward over the next couple of months, construction is slated to begin this year and expected to wrap up by 2023.

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