FREMONT — “Public Comment Period,” the Fremont City Council said on its agenda. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, it said.

So some 100 people packed the City Hall hearing room to have their say on a proposed chicken plant north of this city.

Then the council changed its plan. “We will have no public comment,” Mayor Scott Getzschman said at the meeting.

“You gotta be kidding me,” said Dawn Wiegert, who was among many in the crowd reacting with apparent disbelief.

The Fremont resident said she wanted to tell the City Council what she thought about the proposed plant, pitched as an economic development boon to the region.

“We’re for bringing career jobs, not low-wage jobs,” she told The World-Herald after the meeting.

The mayor said the City Council canceled the public comment period because the project is in limbo. On Monday, the Village of Nickerson, just north of Fremont, rejected a zoning change needed for the project amid heavy opposition to the plant from citizens.

Getzschman, reading a statement he said came from the Greater Fremont Development Council, one of the groups trying to recruit the plant, told the crowd Tuesday: “The client is listening to your current concerns. They acknowledge that mistakes have been made along the lines of not being able to share its identity.”

The company contemplating the plant hasn’t named itself, nor will public officials disclose its identity.

Getzschman said “Project Rawhide,” the code name for the plant, “has decided to step back and re-evaluate all of their options.”

He said that meant a discussion of Fremont’s role in extending utilities to the plant is moot for now.

Wiegert still wanted a say.

“They should be able to listen whether it’s negative comments or positive comments,” she said.

Nickerson area resident Kathy Drawbridge, who opposes the plant because of concerns about its environmental impact and the potential for avian influenza, said the canceled hearing made her feel that opponents were having an effect.

“I feel more confident,” she said.

After the minutes-long meeting adjourned, opponents talked strategy.

Randy Ruppert of Nickerson, organizer of the anti-plant Nebraska Communities United group, said the project organizers “are not going away, but I think they have to redefine the project. Now it’s a waiting game. It gives our group time to solidify.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1336, barbara.soderlin@owh.com

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More coverage of the proposed chicken plant near Fremont

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