Sanderson Farms has cleared a key hurdle in its efforts to open operations in Smith and Wood counties by early 2019.
The Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding between the county, Tyler Economic Development Council and Sanderson Farms that allows the private company to put in utility lines along Farm-to-Market Road 16, which is owned by the Texas Department of Transportation.
EDC President Tom Mullins said getting the agreement in place is a milestone for the project, which is expected to add 1,700 jobs.
“It’s a very complicated project," Mullins said. “If this piece doesn’t get built, the project doesn’t get built.”
Under the agreement, Smith County technically will own the effluent outfall pipeline, but its construction and maintenance will be the responsibility of Sanderson Farms. Sanderson also will be responsible for any issues with the pipe as well as repairs if it breaks.
Tuesday’s memorandum of understanding will affect the processing plant, which is proposed for the Winona area.
Water used to process chickens is cleaned on site in a series of pools, according to Mullins. That treated water then would be piped out along FM 16 and deposited back in the environment.
In March, Sanderson Farms announced it would put a chicken processing facility in the Smith and Wood County area. Mullins said it would be the company’s fourth processing plant in Texas.
The project includes a feed and rail facility in Mineola, a processing plant in Smith County at the intersection of Interstate 20 and Farm-to-Market Road 2015 near Winona, and a hatchery and offices in the Lindale Industrial Park.
It totals a $200 million investment in infrastructure. Mullins said a majority of that will come to Smith County, which is expected to have about $150 million worth of the infrastructure and roughly 1,600 jobs.
The processing plant is estimated to cost $130 million, and the hatchery has a price tag of about $18 million.
Sanderson broke ground on the Mineola feed and rail facility last week, and the Lindale Hatchery is expected to break ground within then next two weeks, Mullins said.
The company’s goal is to open its operation in early 2019, Mullins said.
In other business, county commissioners approved the following:
• Reappointing three people to the Smith County Tax Abatement Committee. They include: Brad Curtis, Sarah Van Cleef and Walter Wilhelmi.
• A Texas Department of Public Safety E-Grant for the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. The grant will help pay for deputy overtime while enforcing traffic on certain holiday weekends. The grant totals $18,839, with the county matching $3,852 of local funds.
• Awarding a construction contract to Tillman Construction LLC to rehab the restrooms in the Smith County Courthouse.