Nearly 100 residents received some answers about how a proposed chicken plant will affect traffic, noise, dust and odor in Millsboro.
Residents questioned Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee and Allen Harim officials who propose converting the Vlasic pickle plant to a chicken processing facility.
Most residents lived in the area when the Vlasic pickle plant operated, and they are worried state officials want the chicken processor to move in and will not enforce laws or protect the ecosystem.
Jay Meyer, a resident of Possum Point, said residents don't want to sacrifice their quality of life for 700 new jobs.
Art Mears moved to Possum Point more than 40 years ago to enjoy the waterfront. He said when Vlasic was operating, he could see pickles and a brown foam from pickle brine washing against his pier.
"When the chicken plant moves in, what will I see then?" Mears said.
Many other residents questioned increased traffic entering the plant. Residents said more trucks would add noise and dust to a rural area.
Jim Quinton, manager of processing for Allen Harim said live chickens will come in on trucks; they will be processed inside an enclosed facility with a new state-of-the-art air filter system that removes dust and odor. Allen Harim plans to spend $100 million to renovate what will be a 487,000-square-foot facility when completed.
Once the chickens are cleaned, a series of machines removes feathers and portions out the birds. The new plant will produce raw chicken products and further-processed flavored products.
Kee said many concerns about truck traffic could be resolved if Allen Harim were to purchase an adjacent property that would allow trucks to enter closer to Route 113, off Thorogoods Road instead of Iron Branch Road.
Quinton said about 50 trucks would enter the plant each day, in addition to eight rendering trucks leaving the plant. The finished product would leave the facility also, adding another 20 trucks to area roads for a total of 80 to 90 trucks daily. The live birds would arrive before 4 a.m., Quinton said.
Quinton said the company is still in negotiations on the adjacent property.
Neighbors to the plant say officials do not understand how congested the single-lane rural roads can become in the summer.
"I'm concerned about my grandchildren who are getting on school buses," said Donna Driver, who lives on Iron Branch Road near the plant. There are two schools off Iron Branch Road. In the past few years there have been accidents involving school buses and trash collection trucks, she said.
Allen Harim has just started to apply for permits. They need updated traffic and entrance permits from Delaware Department of Transportation, new odor permits and waste water permits from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and a variance from the Sussex County Board of Adjustment.
The board of adjustment will consider the variance at 7 p.m., Monday, June 17. Another public meeting with Allen Harim is set for 4 p.m., June 17, at the Millsboro banquet hall.
Kee said the company is willing to consider changes to its plan.
"They are sincere about listening to you," Kee said.
After the two-hour meeting, many residents said they were happy with the company's willingness to work with the community. Others said Allen Harim needs to be more prepared in the future to answer questions.
Allen Harim CEO Brian Hildreth, Harim officials Dr. Harry Lee and Dr. Ke Lee and several other employees attended the June 10 meeting to answer questions.
Additional meetings could be planned if needed, Kee said.