Fight over chicken plant simmers in Nash County

January 28, 2011 3:14:43 PM PST
Thousands of signs opposing a new chicken plant dot the roadways in Nash County these days.

Many residents who spoke with ABC11 say the facility planned for an area off N.C. Highway 97 west of the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport would ruin the character of the rural community.

Eddie Williamson lives just a couple miles from the site where Nash County leaders hope to lure Sanderson Farms into building a hatchery, spray field, and processing plant.

"One of my favorite views is this one right here - looking up the river - and we're afraid of what the chicken plant is going to bring," he said. "Honestly, we feel kind of sold out."

But supporters of the plan say a chicken plant would bring hundreds of jobs to an area that badly needs them.

"I wish we could make everybody happy on everything we do, but that won't be the case," explained Nash County Commissioner Robbie Davis. "We need jobs desperately."

But opponents say the jobs will not be high paying, and the potential environmental costs are not worth it.

"The community doesn't want this and I believe the commissioners have forgotten who they're working for," said resident Melody Godwin.

"We feel as though the Nash County Commissioners have chosen to make southern Nash County a dumping ground," said Williamson. "And we don't appreciate it."

But Davis says the plant would mean 1,100 jobs in a county that saw nearly 12 percent unemployment in December.

"The jobs are sorely needed. We need the increase in our tax base as well, as it's a hundred million dollar investment in Nash County," he explained.

But commissioners not only have a foe in some citizens. The City of Wilson - which is downstream from the proposed plant - has joined with nearly three dozen residents in a lawsuit asking for a thorough environmental review.

"Usually we're working day and night to attract new industry and new jobs, but when it comes to our drinking water supply and the environmental concerns that this project creates, we think it's only appropriate for everyone to slow down," explained City of Wilson Manger Grant Goings.

The lawsuit has slowed the project.

A public hearing and commissioner vote will have to happen before Sanderson Farms can move forward.

Still, Davis says he hopes construction will be underway by this summer.

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