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Costco's Proposed Plant Under Scrutiny, Brian Jorde Featured in The World-Herald

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Costco’s proposed chicken processing plant in Fremont, NE may come paired with a lawsuit if the activist group Bold Nebraska has anything to say about it.

The group is threatening to sue, claiming that part of the agreement between Fremont and Costco violates the Nebraska Constitution. Bold Nebraska believes that the part of the agreement where Fremont will pay for nearly $200,000 of engineering services in order to prepare for Costco’s chicken plant is an illegal loan.

Along with their issues over the financial agreement between Costco and Fremont, Bold Nebraska is opposing the plant itself over environmental concerns, as well as concern over the low wages paid in the poultry industry. With the potential for more than 350,000 birds to be processed every day, the group has also voiced concerns over potential diseases like the avian flu.

Omaha, NE-based HDR Inc. was hired to complete design and engineering services related to bringing wastewater and water services to the proposed plant south of Fremont after submitting the lowest bid in a competitive bidding process. According to city officials, they are not extending any credit or providing a loan, Costco is simply reimbursing Fremont for the $195,825 it will cost taxpayers.

Domina Law Group’s Brian Jorde, who is representing landowners, said in an email to The World-Herald that, “It sounds like an interest-free loan to me. What is so foreign about the concept that for-profit enterprises should pay for their due diligence rather than taxpayers?”

Former City of Omaha attorney Ken Bunger believes that this type of payback is common under a subdivision or redevelopment agreement, which Fremont intends to pursue in order to complete the Costco project. No agreement is currently in place, but it will likely encompass the millions of dollars in costs related to extending the city’s utility services to the plant, including electric, gas, sewer, and water.

A Fremont Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday June 20 in order to debate Costco’s proposed chicken processing plant, and a City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday June 21. The meetings will include a presentation about the project for Costco officials, and large crowds are expected to be in attendance.

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