Millard County resident Karen Johnson soon may have 1.5 million chickens as neighbors.
But the possibility of a $20 million egg-laying farm moving in about a mile and a half east of her home does not bother Johnson. In fact, after touring a similar facility in Villisca, Iowa, last week, she said she thinks the operation would be good for her county."I went looking for negatives, and it was difficult to find any," Johnson said Saturday. "I think it can be a very positive thing. Number one, there is a work force here that would be suitable for what they need. And it would pump $1 million a year into the local economy in the form of wages."
Millard County Commission Chairman John Henrie also looked over the Iowa plant that handles 1.25 million birds and produces more than 25 million cartons of eggs each year.
He said the plant was state-of-the-art and the consortium of three agricultural companies interested in Millard County would build something similar. The three companies are Sunbest Farms of Lincoln, Ark.; Olson Farms of Ontario, Calif.; and Continental Grain Co. of New York.
"We didn't really know what to expect, but boy, it was well-maintained and clean," Henrie said Saturday. "They were really on top of things there."
Delta Mayor Dale Roper said he talked to many Iowa residents and business people, and they were disappointed that the companies were not planning to expand locally.
"I think it would be an addition to this area. I really do," Roper said. "I never did really smell an offensive smell out there. We went downwind of it a little ways, and even the people who lived around it said there wasn't much."
But odor is one concern that may come up at a town meeting with company representatives scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the fair building in Delta.
Henrie said some people have compared the proposed plant to the huge Circle 4 Farms hog operation in Beaver and Iron counties. But the two are completely different, he said.
The egg-laying facility would be located on about 40 acres of land about 14 miles northwest of Delta, Henrie said. It would consist of 10 chicken houses, each about 75 feet wide by 540 feet long.
The location is ideal for the company because it is remote and is served by rail that would allow shipment of fresh eggs to major markets in the West. And Henrie said the location is good for the county because, even if there is some smell, the prevailing winds in the area would carry it away from the handful of people who live nearby.
"I'm a farmer," Henrie said. "The ideal thing I'm looking at there is all the manure we could use, because that chicken manure is good fertilizer."
He said the plant would probably employ 45 to 50 of Millard County's 12,000 residents, with average salaries of about $7 per hour plus benefits.
"That's not a lot of money," Henrie said. "But as you look at Delta's Main Street, with a benefit package, you're making more than anyone on Main Street."
If the companies receive all the necessary permits, Roper said, construction could start next month.
Henrie said the key will be the Tuesday meeting.
"They don't want to be here if the people don't want them, so they want to wait until the town meeting (to make a decision)," he said.
Johnson said she expects a large turnout at the meeting, and she hopes people who do not understand the proposal will not drive the consortium away.