TREMONTON — This Box Elder community won’t be bringing home the bacon.
Loud and angry protests by some Tremonton residents have shut down any discussion of the relocation of a pork-processing plant into the long-empty La-Z-Boy plant.
That dissent was made obvious at a council meeting earlier this week, when the council opted, in an “oral and unofficial vote,” according to Mayor Roger Fridal, to not pursue the offer from Yosemite Meats to undertake a $25 million renovation of the building and open an estimated 200 jobs.
The issue is dead, Fridal said Friday, as in “There’s not a chance in heck that pig plant will come to Tremonton.”
But fallout continues with, for instance, an anonymous letter dropped off at his office Friday morning claiming, Fridal said, that “crime would increase because of the caliber of employees the plant would bring in.”
“It frustrates me and makes me feel bad people would even feel that way,” Fridal said.
Although the community has been seeking jobs to compensate for thousands lost since 2008, what irked many Tremonton residents was a feared drop in property values and, of course, smell. One man in attendance at the council meeting, who claimed he was a long-haul driver transporting pigs, carried in a bag of porcine poop to supposedly illustrate the possible smell factor.
Even though Tremonton is considered an agricultural area, the La-Z-Boy building is planted right in neighborhoods, and those neighbors turned out in force to Tuesday’s standing-room-only meeting, Fridal said. If the plant had been anywhere else in Tremonton, he said, it would have been fine.
Feelings have run high, said Fridal, resulting in an emotional and charged meeting, with most in attendance “overwhelmingly against the pig plant.”
The result was that the council, who could not make an official vote since the issue had not been added to the agenda, strongly indicated their lack of support for the proposal.
However, said Fridal, in “personal conversations” since the meeting, he has come to the conclusion that the ratio of residents in support of the plant is 60-40. “Would it have a perfect fit for Tremonton?” he asked. “It wouldn’t have been. Would the city have benefited long-term? I believe so.”
Fridal said the proposal by Yosemite Meats, a privately held company from Modesto, Calif., was a “legitimate and sincere” offer that included earnest money paid to La-Z-Boy. However, he believes a representative sent by Yosemite Meats to observe Tuesday’s meeting was convinced Tremonton would not be an agreeable host.
“If they’re not welcome,” added Fridal, “they’re not going to force their way in.”
Tremonton’s loss will be another city’s gain, and Fridal said he hopes the company will still consider a Utah city. “My concern is that the company doesn’t judge all of Utah because of what they experienced at our city council meeting,” he said.
“I hope someone is more open-minded and accepts that not every company is perfect — because I don’t think we’re the only community that needs jobs.”