By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor and Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Earlier this week, the City of Rainbow City took an official stance with regard to a hot-button local issue.
During a meeting last Monday (Dec. 14), the Rainbow City Council unanimously passed a resolution stating its opposition to a proposed rendering plant to be located in Gadsden on the ground of the Northeast Regional Airport on the Gadsden/Rainbow City border off Steele Station Road.
The resolution read as follows:
RESOLUTION NO. 20-15
OPPOSITION TO THE PILGRIM’S PRIDE CORPORATION
PROPOSED ANIMAL RENDERING PLANT
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Mayor and City Council of the City of Rainbow City, Alabama is opposed to the construction of the Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation proposed animal rendering plant to be located at 3900 Steele Station Road (owned by the Gadsden Airport Authority) which borders the City of Rainbow City for the following concerns/issues:
1. The impact of the quality of air, life, environment, and water discharge; and
2. The impact of the property values of neighboring residents; and
3. The impact of the health of school children (5,611 within a 5-mile radius); and
4. The economic impact of future recruitment of industry; and
5. The overall negative impact from our citizens, businesses, churches, and neighboring cities; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City of Rainbow City that this official document shall be made a part of the public comments section and forwarded to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
PASSED AND ADOPTED this the 14th day of December 2020.
“We are the first elected body that came out against this and knowing that we haven’t had anybody wiggle or vacillate is a testimony to their representation of you all,” said Mayor Joe Taylor. “That being said, I’ll continue to mount the fight and be out front for us until the time when I need to call on this council. I’ll continue to ring that bell and do it in the nicest way that I possibly can with absolute and sheer respect for other elected officials. We’ve shown where we stand, and we’ll continue to show where we stand. We’re here to protect our children, to protect our community and then the commerce of what those first two bring about will be plenty for us to live on and to thrive.”
“We want to make it known that we oppose this type of industry in this location,” said councilman Randy Vice, an educator and soccer coach at Southside High School. “I applaud Mayor [Joe] Taylor and rest of the people involved for the work they’ve done in stopping this. If you take everything else off the table, this is about the children of Rainbow City. I don’t want our kids having to breathe that stuff when they’re playing sports out on the field. I’d also like to applaud our community for the incredible unity we’ve shown in this opposition. We don’t want to be known what we’re opposed to; we want to be known what we’re for, and we’re for our children, for safe roads, a safe environment and for good, clean industry that will make even us a better city than we already are.”
As an Etowah County Sheriff’s Department SRO officer in the local school system, councilman Jameson Jenkins “echoed” Vice’s concern for schoolchildren.
“There are a lot of problems that will come with this [rendering plant], mainly in the schools. With the COVID, being outside is the only normalcy that these kids get all day long, and anything that inhibits them being able to do that is certainly huge. So I’m very proud of the way we’ve come together in opposition of this.”
“I’m very appreciative to be a part of this council and of have a mayor that is not afraid to step up and put himself out there and lead the charge,” said councilman Jeff Prince. “Just because we’re not being publicly critical of certain leaders in our county, I think we’re all very disappointed in some of the actions that we’ve all seen. We should be unified, not just in Rainbow City but in Etowah County. What’s good for us is good for the county, and vice-versa. Everybody keep praying for the right decisions to be made.”
Rainbow City’s resolution resulted from collective concerns that Mayor Taylor reiterated at Gadsden City Council’s Dec. 8 meeting. Taylor addressed the council from the perspective of someone who served the Gadsden community for a number of years and envisions a united county rather that divided municipalities.
“I thought about the fact that we’ve tried to separate our communities,” said Taylor. “We’ve tried to talk about the different things that keep us from each other. The truth is, when I came from Rainbow City to Gadsden, there’s no difference. I served [Gadsden] and [Gadsden] matters to me.”
Taylor questioned the term ‘state-of-the-art,’ which has been used on numerous occasions to describe the proposed facility. He equated the plant with a sketch, noting that while the phrase ‘state-of-the-art,’ implies the most innovative technology, the plant itself does not exist to prove the implications are true.
“We know that there’s no way with absolute certainty that we can say this plant will work,” said Taylor. “Therefore, it’s not state-of-the-art. It’s an experiment.”
Taylor proposed that Rainbow City and Gadsden work together in the future to discover solutions regarding economic struggles. He emphasized that he believed Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton and the council would determine the best for Gadsden residents as he intends to for Rainbow City.
“I promise you that Rainbow City will lock arms with you,” said Taylor to the Gadsden City Council. “We’ll find jobs for the people that need them. We’ll find economic growth that we need to find. But I just can’t hardly believe that this [plant] is the way to go. It’s an experiment. It’s a test – and what if it fails?”