As many in town continue to remember and grieve the industrial explosion at the ConAgra plant in 2011, others seek new beginnings for the area.
The Garner Economic Development Corporation is actively – but slowly – moving forward to attract new developers to the old ConAgra site.
One strategy to encourage progress includes the renaming of Jones Sausage Road.
During a work session Tuesday evening, the council spent nearly an hour in heated discussion of the sensitive topic after a presentation by Rev. Elmo Vance, a board member with the Garner Economic Development Corporation and chairman for the road naming committee.
Garner Economic Development completed the demolition of the ConAgra plant in 2013 as part of their strategic redevelopment plan, which also recommended the change in the road’s name to best market the site.
“The target market considered the word ‘Sausage’ counterproductive,” Vance wrote in a memo to the town council.
The new proposal
After meeting with Raleigh officials, Garner Economic Development agreed with them to suggest the name of New Hope Road North for the Raleigh portion of the road -- north of Rock Quarry Road -- and New Hope Road South for the Garner portion that reaches U.S. 70.
The goal is to alleviate confusion for the possible project that will realign Jones Sausage Road near the intersection of U.S. 70 and White Oak Road.
Vance also discussed with the council possibilities of memorializing Jones Sausage Road and its history. He suggested memorial signs alongside the road.
Mayor Ronnie Williams and the council endorsed the suggestion to move forward with the re-naming, but Councilman Buck Kennedy said he would like to emphasize an openness to different names.
Garner Economic Development decided to seek approval of a name change from the council before seeking the opinion of the citizens.
Councilmember Gra Singleton said that he was disappointed that the citizens directly affected were not approached previous to the evening’s discussion. Councilman Ken Marshburn disagreed, saying he thought is was wisest to not precede the council’s opinion.
Vance explained that directly affected citizens along Jones Sausage Road would be notified by mail, personal visits and public meetings.
The council discussed the likelihood of moving forward with public hearings as well, expressing a strong desire to hear feedback from the citizens.
Resident Leigh Hudson opined at the permission of the council to commend the name change, saying that joining with Raleigh’s road name would welcome others to the town. He remembered the strong odor of Jones Sausage facility back in the years he carried mail on that road.
Singleton expressed strong concern that the heritage of the road be maintained through keeping the original name.
“All you’ve got is roads. The names are our history whether you like the name ‘Sausage’ or not. It’s not just going to magically go away.” he said. “We don’t have much heritage. This is a trickle of it. That is your identity.”
Council member Kathy Behringer disagreed.
“Are we going to hold on to the past? When you make something new and different it helps ease the pain,” she said. “You build on the past but you don’t live in the past.”
The council did not take any action during the meeting, saying that they wanted to hear from the public first.
Marshburn, who is on the economic development board, said they are aiming to be good stewards. He was strongly in favor of the change.
Councilman Jackie Johns said that he knew the Jones family personally.
“Why change the name of a road that’s been there umpteen years?” he asked.