A constituent of Franklin Alderman Mike Barber sent an e-mail of concerns about the proposed expansion by Strauss Brands that the Common Council is scheduled to vote on tonight. The e-mail was forwarded to Strauss. Here’s the e-mail with questions followed by responses from Strauss in red that came out today.
It is my understanding you will not be able to come to the meeting tonight. Due to this I wanted to answer a few of your concerns that were forwarded to me.
- Waste Water pollution potential- it is a well researched, documented fact that high nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other things, are greatly increased with slaughterhouse waste water. HAS MMSD been informed of the plans that Strauss has to dump into the system? Franklin citizens have begged for an environmental study to be completed prior to a vote! This must be done! Blanket “promises” of a state of the art system cannot be trusted. Lives of families, pets, wildlife, plants, are all at stake.
a) We started the process of working with MMSD over 12 months ago. We have been designing a waste water pre-treatment based on their requirements. The treated water feeds into a sanitary line that leads to a MMSD plant to receive final treatment. We currently harvest upwards of 500 animals per day in our current facility in Franklin on 60th street. This has been the case since 1971. Please note our currently facility does not have a pre-treatment system. Our new facility will have significantly lower levels when it comes to your concerns.
- Green gas emission excesses- Due to excesses of electricity use in slaughterhouses, and again, NO ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY COMPLETED, it is impossible and unsafe to proceed with any vote based on conjecture of how these gases would be affecting Franklin residents.
a) The energy use will be less in the new facility when compared to our current facility in Franklin. We hired a firm by the name of McKinstry to complete an energy conservation study ensuring we mitigate our energy usage in the plant.
- Noise pollution excess – 20 to 30 diesel powered semi trucks powering through our community a DAY filled with animals will be loud and not anything like I envision when I moved my family here.
a) Again, our truck traffic will be very similar to our current facility. There are 5-6 livestock deliveries at our facility on 60th street per day. If we begin operations on Loomis we expect 6 livestock trucks per day to start. The major difference will be utilizing Loomis vs. Ryan road to get to our facility.
- Odor – yes, something doesn’t smell right about this entire program… but it really won’t SMELL good in the 2 mile radius around the slaughterhouse if you read the literature!
a) Having to work at this facility and living within a few miles myself, I’m just as concerned in regards to odor. We will be installing Ozone systems in the exhaust fans of any process area that has the potential to generate odor. Ozone reacts with obnoxious odors neutralizing them. Research shows the reduction is 99.99% or nearly zero. Additionally, we have never had complaints or concerns about odor from anybody in the community, even as close as within the business park. Numerous people have toured our operation and driven by our plant, none of whom said that odor is a concern. People are welcome to drive by our plant at any time and seek for themselves if this is a reasonable concern after doing so.
- Property value losses – because it is not common to build a slaughterhouse in this proximity to a high end residential community such as Franklin and Muskego, it is impossible to use research to accurately estimate the impact this will due to our property value. Comparing it to the current Strauss facility is useless- that facility is not a slaughterhouse!! So a REAL ESTATE STUDY IS MANDATORY!! Has it been done- nope, but it must be, prior to any vote (a referendum is the ONLY appropriate voting method so all citizen are able to share their input)
a) We currently operate a harvest plant that at its peak was doing 3,500 animals per week (more than the proposed build). History is a good indicator or the future. Our current facility has not had any impact on property values.
- Fire Department issues – our Franklin department has shared very concerning issues related to storage of chemicals, response times , questions related to need for an additional water tower (at whose cost? ) none of this has been worked out! How can it even be considered to move forward with a vote when our Fire Department has written safety concerns without resolution, all of which could be costly for resolution.
a) Impact fees are charged for new development for this reason. Strauss and the developer we purchased the land from will have paid millions of dollars for infrastructure once the project is complete. Our project is bringing main utilities, such as water closer to residents in the southwest corner of Franklin. The water tower has been part of Franklin’s plan for a decade and is not related to this project. Our water usage will decrease in the new facility vs. our current.
- Health and safety issues at slaughterhouse- it is well documented that the employee population in slaughterhouses partnered with the high speed work demands brings with high infection rates (COVID) , injuries and other safety issues. Other issues related to employees include transportation to work – will there now be a bus route going through Franklin? This is yet another issue Franklin citizens should have input into! Crime rates are high in most literature for employees of slaughterhouse jobs. This not a generalization- it is taken from research. So questions arise regarding safety, policing, social services.
a) Regarding COVID, our COVID rates are best in class for our industry: While other meat plants have experienced very high infection rates we have stayed around 3-4% (very close to Milwaukee County’s average). Of the few cases we have had all returned to work healthy, most of whom continue to be hard-working dedicated employees today. We take employee welfare and safety very serious. This is why we took, what is just a sampling of, the following preventative steps for our employees:
1) When we learned that our first employee who had minor symptoms tested for COVID we took the pre-emptive step giving all employees the option to take off with pay until we received the test result. Half stayed to work, and half went home. When the test was, in fact, confirmed positive, we again gave all employees the option of staying home with pay the full week after or returning to work if not exposed. Approximately half worked and half stayed home.
2) Strauss was one of the first companies in Franklin with a complete written, communicated, and executed program. The Plan is on file, as requested by the City of Franklin Health Department, so other companies could benchmark from our Plan. The low positive rates prove our proactive and thorough concern for employees first.
3) Strauss slowed our production rates down by up to 50% to allow for additional separation.
4) Strauss purchased and installed significant production equipment during 2020 Q1 and Q2 supporting additional employee separation while adding efficiency and ergonomic improvements for employees.
5) Staggered shifts were implemented to support separation.
6) Tents were installed in the parking lot, with electricity for heaters and microwaves, for employee separation and comfort because the space in our current building for breaks is somewhat limited.
b) Regarding safety and other injuries: Our safety programs are proactive and preventative. We have a Safety Consultant working with Strauss to ensure we continue building a best in class safety program with our Union for all of our employees. Our injury rates have significantly declined over the last few years because we take safety and protection of our employees seriously.
Our employees have ample transportation. It’s unfortunate that you classify our group of employees as individuals who increase crime rates. This is just not the case, we have highly motivated employees trying to make a living wage for themselves and their families. We have, and will continue to, recognize our employees’ performance and development. Our pay increases in each of the past few years have ranged much higher and faster than any jobs in the market at approximately 6% with many jobs increasing up to 10% and higher. The opportunities offered to our current and future employees by our new facility will result in an approximate income range of $45,000 to $71,000 for Union plant employees. Additionally, Strauss has been in Franklin for decades with no impact on crime. In fact, we would support that the opportunities and training Strauss provides for our employees and their families supports the reduction of crime as any jobs would do for a community.
- Volume if water use in plant and need for another water tower – whose cost would this be to put up another water tower for this use? Again, this must be resolved PRIOR to a vote!
a) Again this is not related to our project. Our water usage will decrease as a result of being in a new facility built in the 21st century. This is a result of many water conservation projects that will be completed as part of the project.
- Lastly, Franklin is a small community. Green spaces flowers, families, skiing, ballparks and biking. So now we add trucks of animals headed to there demise on the list??? This is NOT what most people are looking for when driving to the library or school or supermarket. I don’t want to see this, I don’t want my kids to see this. It is that simple. These slaughterhouses DO NOT BELONG in a residential community!! It is a quality of life issue for ALL OF US!!
a) Franklin’s original plan was intended to be multi use. This includes residential and industrial. I truly appreciate your concerns above and we will ensure that if we build in Franklin the concerns will never become an issue. As stated above, we already have 6+ plus livestock trailers deliver to our facility on 60th Street. This has been ongoing for 50 years with most residents, even people who share the business park with Strauss, never knowing we harvest here in Franklin. We trust that reasonable people who acknowledge not knowing about Strauss’ facility and harvest operation for the past 50 years will also be reasonable about the opportunity that Strauss will, therefore, continue to be a good neighbor. May I ask how many have you have seen since residing in Franklin?
Thanks, Jerald Bussen
Strauss Brands LLC