More hogs, actually, and a new bridge

There are no new songs about hog CAFOs – just slightly different words to the verses each time a new one is proposed.

The Greene County supervisors held a public hearing Monday on a confined animal feeding operation proposed by John and Libby Towers for Highland Township, Section 30. The opposition choir was smaller than those who sang out in March against a proposed Greenbrier Township CAFO. On Monday, only two neighbors spoke against the 4,492-head facility.

Pat Fitzpatrick lives one-half mile from the site and said there’s already one a half-mile away. He noted that Towers Brothers owns the nearby ground where the manure from the CAFO will be applied. “Do they approve pigs over people?” Fitzpatrick asked.

Charles Hoskins had more to say. He lives southeast of the site. “I think there’s enough of these buildings being built. It’s got to the point you don’t hardly have a day to breathe,” he said.

He said the CAFOs are a quality of life issue, with the owner building his financial quality of life by degrading the neighbors’ quality of life. “I don’t know where people come from with the ruthlessness it takes to infringe on your fellow people,” he said.

Hoskins questioned whether manure from other nearby CAFOs is injected as it’s supposed to be.

Board chair pro tem Dawn Rudolph read a letter sent by Francetta Stream opposing Towers Pork. County sanitarian Chuck Wenthold reported receiving a phone call from James Fitzpatrick in opposition.

Becky Sexton of Twin Lakes Environmental prepared the master matrix for Towers Pork. She answered Hoskins’ comments about manure application, and she responded to his comment that the problem with nitrate run-off started with hog confinements.

“Actually, if you look at the studies through Iowa State University, if you actually take off your commercial nutrients, and you went with hog manure, you could actually show the decrease and what you’re actually, and actually the nutrients that you’re actually applying, you can actually have less run-off going to the fields because actually you can cut off the nutrients that are actually going to go to the fields so we can actually cut that back. So we’re not going to have as many nutrients in our fields so we can actually cut back and we’ll have a lot less in our fields if we actually go from commercial nutrients to hog nutrients. We would actually show some benefit to our fields if we actually go from commercial nutrients to hog nutrients. We’re showing that there’s a lot more benefit that way,” Sexton said.

Hoskins called hog CAFOs “sewage plants,” and said, “I don’t know why Greene County wants to be populated with sewage plants.”

John Towers was at the public hearing. As has become the practice, he didn’t speak.
Supervisor Pete Bardole spoke about odor. He farms with his father near Rippey and said there are five hog CAFOs nearby and one open lot. He said they smell the open lot more than they smell the hog CAFOs.

Supervisor Tom Contner said there are three CAFOs near where he lives in Greenbrier Township. He said there have been two very hot nights in the nine years he’s lived there that he couldn’t go outside because of odor. “I used to be a farmer. I’m for hog confinements. I really am. For young people to get started, I think it’s a good deal,” Contner said. He added that his “quality of life is just as good as anyone else’s.”

Supervisor Mick Burkett said his son has four buildings and he can understand young farmers who want to build CAFOs. He repeated what is said at every hog hearing, that the supervisors have no power to deny a construction permit if it meets the 440 points needed on the master matrix. (The Towers Pork matrix scored 455.) The supervisors hold the public hearings so people can voice their opinions, but it’s the DNR that approves the permits. He said the legislature could put a moratorium on more CAFOs, but the supervisors can’t do much.

The supervisors voted 4-0 to recommended approval of the construction permit to the DNR. Board chair John Muir was absent from the meeting.

In other business, the board approved the low bid of $609,702 from Dixon Construction for the bridge over W. Buttrick Creek on County Road E-18 two miles west of County Road P-29 in Dawson Township. The pre-bid estimate was $700,000. Work will begin on Aug. 1 and the company will have 65 working days to complete the project without penalty.

The supervisors have been talking since last summer about repair to the roof on the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower. County engineer Wade Weiss reported that a local contractor he thought would do the project has backed away from it. He asked the supervisors if Wenthold could take the lead on the project, saying that the large wind turbine project is taking 40 percent of his work time, with many road use permits to review. The supervisors and Wenthold agreed.

The board approved $3,000 to Nyhart Company for a state-mandated biennial audit of post-employment benefits.

Chris Henning updated the supervisors on the upcoming farmers market season and verified that the market can be held on the east side of the courthouse as in previous years. The market will be held Tuesdays from 4 to 6:30 pm, June 5 through Sept. 25, rain or shine.

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