Madison Food Park Questions

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I’m not taking a side; I just have some questions. I repeat, I’M NOT TAKING A SIDE–yet! I want more information to form an informed opinion.

First off, a complaint–Why did Great Falls Area Concerned Citizens plan an informational meeting about this important county-wide issue on Tuesday December 5 at 6:45 pm when there’s a regularly scheduled Great Falls City Commission meeting the same day at 7 pm? Didn’t they think to check whether there were other important meetings going on? Commission meetings are posted months in advance. Or did they know and just not care that some people might want to attend both? Now those people have to make a choice. City commission only meets twice a month. You’d think this group would try to avoid those times. Just another example of the poor planning which has become Great Falls modus operandi.

Mr. Nikolakakos, you’ve stated it’s opportunity for Friesen to “ship Canadian animals to the US and obtain USDA certification while avoiding more stringent labor and environmental rules.” An “opportunity” does not equal a done deal. Do you know the livestock laws well enough to make that statement? What about the local ag producers? Have we heard from them? What’s their level of interest and involvement in this project? Will they utilize this facility?

You also stated, “The submitted application calls for over a billion gallons of water usage a year from the Madison aquifer, putting area wells and water quality at risk.” That sounds like a heck of a lot of water, I grant you that and it sounds potentially harmful. But where is the data that it would be harmful? If you want to fight this, you’re going to need more than speculation. It also seems that the MT DNRC would look at this regarding the potential of affecting water rights of others in the basin. Any word from them?

You also wrote, “Prior to 2017, this plant could not have been approved under agricultural zoning regulations. This was until CEO Edward Friesen recently visited county offices. After the meeting the county, coincidentally, began amending our regulations to match virtually word for word what Friesen needed.”

Okay then, I want to hear more about the meeting between Friesen and county. Did he meet with the county commissioners? Did he meet with county staff? At which meeting did the commissioner vote to change the zoning regulations to match what Friesen needed? If it happened the way you claim, it is perhaps the biggest part of this story.

Isn’t this facility now an allowable use under county zoning? Therefore, wouldn’t some part of their application need to be deficient in some way for the county to refuse to approve it? Deficient in that it doesn’t follow county codes, zoning regulations or is likely to break a law? I don’t believe an unpopularity contest amongst county residents can legally stop it. But then again, I’m not an attorney.

For someone who is an intelligence analyst in the military and therefore should be well versed in critical thinking skills and the use of logical arguments, I’m a bit disappointed in the argument as you’ve presented it. It appears based more in the emotional, rather than the analytical.

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Jeni Dodd is a creative, multi-faceted, multi-talented, knowledge junkie. She currently utilizes her skills in a variety of business and artistic endeavors. Liberty, integrity, truth and critical thinking are among her most important precepts.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Jeni,

    We intend to host a series of meetings, in fact, we will be addressing the Belt Town council next week. If you’ve tried to wrangle a large meeting that doesn’t conflict with something you might understand our plight, this is a tough time of year. Hunting season on one end, holidays on the other, grain growers meetings, large school concerts, you name it. Right now we are focused on getting the word out and organizing among ourselves, our primary political audience is county officials though we believe city officials should be monitoring closely. We don’t have millions of dollars and full time consultants. We’re moms and dads, medical providers and business owners etc. with full lives. Unlike Friesen Foods and Todd Hanson who had their first public meeting only after much public outcry and they were forced to delay their Zoning Board of Adjustments hearing (at that point it would have been all but over save for permit battles) we believe the more information out there the better it is for our cause. So we’ll be out there again. And then again. And each time we intend to be more specific and more focused. They have had years to plan this on top of endless money. We have had weeks to organize and get smart on a shoestring.

    You’re asking a lot of specific questions and took a swipe at my analytic skills. I’d point you to the scope and intent of my editorial. I had +/- 500 words to make my case. I can write 1500 on water alone. Then another 1500 on waste. Another 1500 on property values. Another 1500 on the political situation. And on and on. In 500 words I set out to accomplish some simple steps. 1- Raise awareness, especially of the scope and size of the project. It’s amazing how many people I meet who have no idea, others can’t grasp the size of this thing and will tell you a story of an old small packing plant in the family or something. 2 – Lay out the basic risk factors at play: water, waste, air, quality of life, property values, social and infrastructure burden etc.
    3 – Point out the non-transparent and suspicious nature of the company in question as well as our county officials. You bet it’s an emotional issue when the water your kids drink, the air we breath, and the kind of life we enjoy are under threat. But I think I systematically laid out the outline of concerns and battlefields this matter will be fought on which is what I set out to do. The real emotional argument seems to begin and end with “JOBS, JOBS” and no further analysis regarding long term implications. I cited BLS statistics and other towns who recently waged these battles. Again, 500 words. It did work in the sense that it has you asking a lot of pointed questions. I assure you that’s more than Edward Friesen wants you doing. I would also point our that by statute, and just ethically speaking, the burden of proof is on the applicant/developer. Their SUP was full of holes that did not answer basic statutory questions. Todd Hanson just gave a brief where he spent 80% of his time talking about ABNR technology that they are “looking at” using but wasn’t in the original application. We spoke to those guys (very nice people) and it sounds like not much more than some questions were asked and he comes down here and pitches it like it’s a done deal. This company with hundreds of millions of dollars to gain using our resources and our town is not being transparent or straight yet your anger seems aimed at our meeting date and my not being analytical enough in 500 words covering a deep and multifaceted issue.

    Many of the questions you asked have been answered on our Facebook page where we have dozens and dozens of articles form reputable sources as well as academic literature, and personal testimonials etc. With as many posts as we have now we have buried a lot of good stuff, however, which is why we are in the process of taking the “best of” and putting it on our page. Again though, we’re raising families while building pages, hosting meetings, networking with environmental groups, doing media interviews, running a social media page with many thousands of interactions etc. Cut us just a little bit of slack here.

    I work this weekend and have about a dozen other items on my plate but will do my best to answer your
    specific questions when I have a little extra time. As I said, for now, if you scroll through all the posts on our FB page most of what you’re asking is there. Thanks for having an open mind.

    – George

  2. Thanks George. There are still quite a few of us out here who aren’t on Facebook so you shouldn’t assume everyone has access to your information through that outlet. I rejected Facebook back when they changed their privacy policies to be even more intrusive and I never looked back. In my work, I also interface with many older folks and quite a few of them aren’t on Facebook. Facebook postings don’t necessarily help me even when it’s a public Facebook page, as I’ve found when you click on the resources posted, you sometimes can’t access them unless you’re a Facebook member. I’d suggest posting data on an actual website where anyone can access them.

    Also, I’m not angry about the meeting; I just had a complaint. Do you think everyone that has a complaint about something is angry? Wow, that’s closed-minded. I was just a little frustrated. I’ve been involved with public events for years, so I understand it’s a busy time of year. However, thinking analytical, it seems that you’d be interested in also attracting the people that are highly motivated in local policy and politics, and some of those people attend city and county commission meetings. Yet that’s the audience you’ve ignored in scheduling this meeting.

    Regarding you calling me out for not being angry at Friesen Foods for their alleged lack of transparency, I can say that again, I was not angry at your group either. I’m just trying to gather information and evaluate it in order to develop an informed opinion. It’s important to guard against bias when gather and evaluating information and emotionality often leads to bias if one is not careful.

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