- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - The City Council has rejected an agreement with a company to build a $240 million pork processing plant in Mason City.

The agreement failed on a 3-3 vote early Wednesday morning after the council met for seven hours, the Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/24yo25q ) reported.

Council members Travis Hickey, Janet Solberg and Brett Schoneman voted in favor of a development agreement with the company, and Alex Kuhn, John Lee and Bill Schickel voted against it.

Schickel didn’t attend the meeting because of a recent surgery, but participated by phone.

“I have struggled with this. I can understand both sides and that makes the decision even harder,” Schickel said. “This would be of great benefit to Mason City. But for this to work, it needs the acceptance of the community and it doesn’t have it. There’s too much turmoil. I want to vote yes but I just can’t do it.”

Prestage Foods officials said the $240 million pork processing plant in southwest Mason City would hire nearly 1,800 people in two phases. Officials said the plant would have a buffer zone and the company would make payments to the local school district.

Kuhn had consistently said that Mason City wasn’t getting enough in the development agreement. He restated it again Tuesday night after the council voted to add $25 million to the $100 million minimum assessment agreement.

Residents who oppose the plant have raised environmental issues related to wastewater and odor and expressed concern about possible harm to property values. At the public meeting that began Tuesday night, 63 people spoke, with 48 opposed to the plant. The seven-hour meeting ended at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The North Carolina-based company released a statement after the vote.

“While we are disappointed, we believe in a bright future for agriculture and wish the people of Mason City all the best,” it said.

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