Permit for hog lot still not resolved

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The vote to reconsider a permit for a hog lot in London Township got postponed Tuesday after the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners concluded to have Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson review the situation before taking any further action.

This was one of several times the debate over a permit request for the hog lot by Adams Minnesota Farms LLC has come up during a Board of Commissioners meeting.

In June, Adams Minnesota Farms originally requested a conditional-use permit to build a total confinement hog barn that would house 2,400 pigs in London Township, but it was denied the permit. The original vote was 3 to 2, with commissioners Dan Belshan, Chris Shoff and Jim Nelson voting against the permit.

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The structure would be off 860th Avenue and 130th Street southeast of Myrtle.

The motion was originally denied because of concerns over the effects of increased use on 130th Street and the fear of flooding on it.

In August, on another vote of 3 to 2, the commissioners opted to reconsider the denial. The vote had commissioners Mark Behrends, Glen Mathiason and Nelson — who initiated the reconsideration — voting for and Shoff and Belshan voting against.

At that time, the vote to reconsider the permit was scheduled to come at the Tuesday meeting.

However during the meeting, Belshan said he came across a corporate farm law put in place in 1971 that states a corporate farmer has to be certified by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

As of Sept. 15, Adams Minnesota Farms is not certified through the corporate farm program, Belshan said.

He noted he thinks the information should be reviewed by the county attorney, and Nelson should give the board a written response on the issue before any further action is taken.

Behrends asked why Belshan decided to bring this up at this point in the discussion, and Belshan responded he wanted to make sure the board was not going to break any state laws.

Belshan said he is sworn as a county commissioner to uphold the law.

The board concluded to take the legal counsel on the issue.

The proposed site happens to be roughly 4 miles south of Belshan’s listed residence. It is also just down 860th Avenue from land listed under Calvin Belshan.

In June, neighbors spoke up with concerns about the hog lot moving in. One issue that came up was flood elevation, but Planning and Zoning Administrator Wayne Sorensen said the top of the barn is seven feet above the 100-year flood zone. For the manure pit to be submerged under water, he said, there would have to be a flood of “biblical proportion.”

According to Belshan, whose district the proposed location resides in, more than 80 percent of London Township residents brought a petition to township officers wishing to wait and investigate the issue further.

In other action, the county board:

– Approved raising the fee for influenza vaccine administration from $20 to $25 per dose of the vaccine.

Freeborn County Public Health Director Lois Ahern said the raised price is because of an increase in the cost of supplies, nurse time, clerical time and mileage to administer the vaccine.

Each dose of the vaccine costs $15.78, but by the time all of the other involved costs are included, it’s equal to $22.33.

The fee of $20 per dose was set in 2006. At that time, the cost of a dose of the actual vaccine cost $11.20 before including cost of supplies, nurse time and other expenses.

Ahern said the Freeborn County Public Health Department ordered 2,200 doses of the vaccine this year, which is an average number of doses.

– Approved a Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant contract for about $26,600 between the Minnesota Department of Health and Freeborn County Public Health for the 2008-09 year.

The funding is from the Centers for Disease Control and distributed by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Ahern said this is a smaller amount than received in previous years.

Specifically, funding has decreased by about $600 for preparedness activities, and the funding for pandemic influenza planning has been eliminated.

– Authorized Mathiason and County Administrator John Kluever to sign an interagency agreement with the Department of Natural resources to coordinate Freeborn County’s portion of the LiDAR contour mapping program.

Under the program, legislators bonded for obtaining two-foot contour mapping for seven counties affected by the 2007 floods. Though Freeborn and Mower counties were not included in these seven counties, they have now been given the opportunity to be included in a regional contract for it managed by the DNR.

The cost for the county will be less than $20,000 coming from the county recorder’s technology funds, and the rest will come from different watershed districts, Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller said.

This has been something the county has been working on for some time, she said.

– Authorized a plan of how to respond to the results of the recent road safety audit.

During the audit, two areas emerged as priorities after review of Freeborn County’s crash data and field reviews. Those areas were reduction in lane departure crashes and reduction of rural intersection crashes.

Miller said the audit gave the county the tools it needed to apply for highway safety improvement money.

The county will be receiving nearly $500,000 in the fiscal year 2009 toward projects such as putting in edgeline rumble strips. Projects will start happening next summer, she said.

– Approved payment of $10,000 to the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority for the Housing Initiative funds approved by the commissioners in 2008.

Out of the funds, $5,000 will be used to support the Artspace Projects Inc. survey commissioned by the city, and $5,000 will be used to update the County Wide Housing Study and Comprehensive Plans completed in 2006.

– Awarded the bid for repair and improvement of County Ditch No. J-6 to Freeborn Construction for about $328,000. Work on the project will start Oct. 1.

– Approved a motion for repairs on County Ditch No. J-25, No. 4 and No. 15.