Great Falls residents were hoping to get answers about the proposed Madison Food Park on Monday night.
Friesen Foods LLC acquired approximately 3,018 acres of land about eight miles southeast of Great Falls. The project will include a processing plant for cattle, pigs, and chickens, and the related further processing facilities for beef, pork, and poultry. Developers expect that when the project is fully operational, it will directly create about 3,075 jobs, along with as many as 85 supporting jobs in the surrounding community.
"It is an informational meeting to let you make an informed opinion based upon the presentation. We did not do that at the time because there was supposed to be a public forum,” Eric Ray, Neighborhood council 5 chairperson said.
In September, a member of the council requested that the council bring in a representative of Madison Food Park to speak.
Since the forum was canceled, the council decided to move forward with having their own meeting with Todd Hanson of Norsman Consulting Group.
“So the first thing that I am hoping we can accomplish tonight is talk about the Madison Food Park in the context of what it is and what it is not,” Hanson said.
Hanson started the meeting stating that is it not a stock yard, livestock holding facility, or an animal finishing site.
Hanson says the park is an opportunity for economic growth and an opportunity for procedures in the state of Montana.
“There has been a misconception that our silence meant something other than it did. Our silence meant that we were doing our due diligence. We were studying all the options,” Hanson said.
Friesen Foods LLC acquired around 3,000 acres of undeveloped real estate located about eight miles southeast of Great Falls for the park.
The project would include a processing plant for cattle, pigs, and chickens, and the related further processing facilities for beef, pork, and poultry.
But one of the biggest concerns residents have had since finding out about the park is all the water it will take to run it.
"Our estimation right now, at peak operating capacities, so think five years don't think year one, think year five, we expect needing 3,072 acre feet per year to service the needs of the Madison Food Park," Hanson said.
Hanson says they have been looking into utilizing Advanced Biological Nutrient Recovery, or ABNR, system which will help them reduce their carbon footprint.
"Waste solids are slurry in your digester. That which is filtered through goes to the ABNR system. The two by-products that come off that I have indicated are bio-gas and fertilizers,” Hanson said.
Other questions raised by residents were about their water wells, and where the company is getting the number for 3,000 employees from, and how many animals will be processed at the park.
“We want to continue to have conversations like this and opportunities to speak to every one of you,” Hanson said.
Edward Friesen, the principal developer, also attended the meeting, but did not speak. KRTV asked Friesen for an interview, but he declined.
The Great Falls Concerned Citizens group released this statement after the meeting:
"Tonight’s public engagement by Todd Hanson occurred only after an apparent effort to push this slaughterhouse through while no one was paying attention failed weeks ago. Tonight’s “sales pitch” was no different than those made to other communities who suffer the consequences of these abominations: exaggerated promises of “good paying jobs” and new technologies with little track record that will finally work this time. But in the end the results are always the same. The annual one billion gallon water use and 300 million pounds of animal solids puts our wells, water, and air at serious risk of contamination. The odors and damage to our quality of life will devastate property values. The arrival of thousands of transient low wage workers will burden our schools, law enforcement, medical providers, and welfare services. The reputation of our town will be damaged forever chasing out young families, retirees, college graduates, professionals, and the chance for real long-term growth. Tumors grow. We say, growth at what cost? This slaughterhouse is a bad deal for our community and we will stop it."
For more information, click here to read the submitted planning documents.
Here is the complete raw video from Monday's meeting: