Alachua County commissioners clarified at a Tuesday meeting that the commission is looking into building a local meat processing facility, but they haven’t solidified anything yet.
The discrepancy came from Commissioner Anna Prizzia’s Feb. 9 statement regarding the plans for the new facility. In it, she wrote the commission “supports a local meat processing facility” due to its value to county ranchers.
Commissioner Ken Cornell took issue with the word “support.” He thinks it sends the message the commission has already made its decision to spend county funds on the project, he said. When he voted to approve spending county funds Dec. 6, he was under the impression he was voting on seeing whether the meat industry would be the right project to invest in.
“I read it to mean we’ve decided to do this,” Cornell said. “And I don’t feel that way. We’ve decided to pursue looking at this.”
Cornell pointed out the $2.5 million of federal funding set aside for the project was meant to go toward addressing food security in Alachua County. There is no plan set in stone yet, he said, but following Prizzia’s written statement, he’s received calls from concerned residents that it’s permanent.
Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler also expressed concern about making the project appear irreversible to the public, she said.
Prizzia countered by saying she assumed the unanimous Dec. 6 vote meant the commission stood behind the meat processing facility concept. She’s been frustrated by this process because of a lack of communication from both commissioners and residents, she said.
Before Dec. 6, there seemed to be a large amount of community support for the project from local farmers, Prizzia said. But now, after the vote, residents are coming forward with questions and criticisms. She was confused by commissioner responses following that, she said.
“The difference was in the conversation about the future of the project and how the project gets put together,” she said.
There will be a meeting March 28 to discuss the project in more detail now that funding has been approved. Policy discussions will include possible environmental regulations on the facility and strategies to prioritize local ranchers, Prizzia said.
The commission also unanimously approved a Right to Clean Water Resolution Tuesday, with Commissioner Mary Alford absent from the meeting. The resolution affirms Alachua County’s support for not just individuals but the natural environment as well, Prizzia said.
As of now, Orange County is the only other county in Florida that has passed a Right to Clean Water resolution.
The resolution states that protections for Orange Creek and the Santa Fe River basin are of “paramount concern” to the county.
However, Tamara Robbins, a city of Alachua resident, brought up the question of whether the resolution would hold any weight long term. She supports the resolution, she said, but she’s concerned about whether it can actually aid county water conservation efforts.
“What I’d really like to know is what teeth it really gives to the public,” Robbins said.
Because the resolution is technically not legislation, it doesn’t provide any kind of enforcing power, Prizzia said. But it can serve as a blueprint for future conservation efforts from the county.
“Often, a resolution is the start,” Prizzia said. “We would have to use that resolution as a foundation for policy making.”
Contact Siena at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @SienaDuncan.
Siena Duncan is a sophomore journalism major and the graduate school beat reporter for the Alligator. When she's not out reporting, she's typically bothering her friends about podcasts or listening to Metric on repeat.