RAYMOND – The Raymond Central Board of Education has unanimously passed a resolution to oppose a proposed chicken farm operation.
The action came at a special meeting called on Aug. 6.
The proposed chicken operation would be located near Northwest 27th Street and West Ashland Road. The proposed barns are part of a $400 million project to provide broiler chickens for Costco and its processing plant that is nearly up and running in Fremont.
Around 30 residents came to the board and spoke. All but one spoke in opposition to the proposed chicken farm on property owned by Wayne and Charlene Greve.
The proposed chicken farm would allow eight barns with about 47,500 chickens in each barn on the property near the Saunders-Lancaster county line.
Most residents who spoke in opposition cited their fears of an increase in truck traffic and the rise in water use in the area.
The chicken barns, if built, would be almost directly north of Raymond Central Junior/Senior High School. According to Google Maps, the location would be less than two miles from the school.
Raymond Central Superintendent Dr. Derrick Joel said the school has some relatively unique problems that the chicken farm could exacerbate.
“The heart of what we do is about students first,” Joel said.
Like the district patrons who spoke, Joel’s main concern was water. He said the school relies on five wells to pump water to the school. As the school has grown, now with around 400 students, its demand for water has coincided.
In 2009 and 2010, the Board of Education voted to increase Raymond Central’s water flow with a goal of 100 gallons per minute. That effort required five test wells to be dug, which found nothing. The school went further and brought out a specialist to witch for water and they were able to dig the five working wells from that.
“The Board of Education at that time did a great job,” Joel said. “But in doing so, what they found is the water source is scarce.”
In the Lancaster County Planning Commission’s report on the proposed project, the school is just outside the one-mile radius of wells analyzed. The report shows 11 wells within the one-mile radius. Nine of those are domestic wells. The report says the active wells are pumping between seven and 30 gallons per minute, which it says is fairly typical for wells in the area.
The other major concern brought up last week was roads and driving safety.
Due to Raymond Central’s rural locale, Joel said that all students and staff must arrive via car or school bus and that the traffic would be an added danger.
The application letter written by Trevor Enstrom on behalf of the Greves and Josh and Tonya Bussard, addresses the probable increase in truck traffic. In the letter, Enstrom said the chicken farm would average about 20 trucks per week. The heaviest traffic would be on the weeks when the chickens are to be taken to the facility in Fremont, when there would be about 62 trucks.
Currently, West Ashland Road is a minimum maintenance road and would require improvement, according to the report.
Saunders County Highway Superintendent Steve Mika has sent a letter to the commission saying that Saunders County would not “participate in any financial funding to construct, improve or maintain any portion of Ashland Road” near the proposed site.
Rock Creek Township has also declined to fix and maintain the road, rescinding a previous agreement to do so saying that the township was “misinformed.” The township said in its letter that the operation would benefit Lancaster County and not Saunders County, like they initially believed when they made the agreement.
With its vote last week, Raymond Central Board of Education joins a long list of opposition to the project. Over 100 opposition letters have been sent to the Lancaster County Planning Commission. About 20 letters have been written in support.
The permit application will go before the Planning Commission Sept. 4 in the County-City Building in Lincoln for further public hearing and a vote.
If approved by the commission it will then head to the County Commissioners for consideration.