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Neighbors question site of anhydrous plant

By Staff | May 27, 2008

A proposed anhydrous ammonia plant in Brush Creek Township failed to get an okay from the Faribault County Board at their meeting last Tuesday.

Several neighbors to the proposed site had a series of concerns about the project, and they brought their attorney with them to make the points.

Farmers Cooperative Company has 49 business locations in north central and west central Iowa. Two anhydrous ammonia plants in Faribault County, one in Elmore Township and the one in Brush Creek Township, would be their first operations in Minnesota.

Both sites need conditional use permits from the county. Bruce Blakesley of the County Planning and Zoning Commission was at the meeting and proposed that the board okay the permits. They met the criteria for the proposals, which would be up to 90,000-gallon anhydrous plants.

The board passed the permit for the plant near Elmore. But when it came time to discuss the other one, both the board and the audience had lots of reservations to voice.

Neighbors Roger Legred, Ruth Schaper and Jeff Schaper, along with their lawyer, Mike Johnson of Blue Earth, questioned access to a tile that goes across the land in question.

Johnson said the concerns involved drainage, and whether the plant would be built over the top of the tile. He suggested it might have to be moved before construction.

Commissioner Butch Erichsrud said if he was the Schapers and a neighbor to the proposed plant, he would not want it there. He added that it is across the road from a wildlife management area. “This is not a good deal, I am totally against it,” he said.

Commissioner Barb Steier agreed. “There could be a better place for it, somewhere with no neighbors,” she said.

However, Commissioner Tom Loveall warned against changing policy and going down a slippery slope. “If it meets the requirements, the setbacks and the regulations, we should allow it if it follows the law,” he said. “We can’t let our personal feelings get in the way; it’s not a nuclear power plant after all.”

Commissioner Tom Warmka said he was not against any ag related business in Faribault County but suggested a closer look at the deal before it was okayed.

Loveall said it was not up to the board to settle a dispute between neighbors either, and suggested that they work it out among themselves.

Elwood Klingbile is the current owner of the property and is selling 10 acres to Farmers Cooperative for the anhydrous plant. Commissioner Warmka said he did not want to upset that private sale, but thought the matter needed further review.

The board extended the application period for conditional use permit from 30 days to 60 days. They instructed the company to work out an agreement with the neighbors before the next board meeting.

“We can’t tell you that it will be voted up or down at that meeting,” Loveall said. “And we can’t tell you to look for another location either.”

County Attorney Brian Roverud said that unless the company withdraws the proposal, it will be up to the board to vote the permit up or down at the next meeting, regardless of what is done in other areas.

Jail water softener

The new Faribault County Law Enforcement Center, currently under construction, got a lot of discussion at the meeting.

The board had to vote to get quotes on the water softener equipment, something that had not been done earlier.

“The plumbers need to know how much room to leave for it in the utilities room,” County Auditor John Thompson said. That is because they are installing other equipment soon.

Discussion centered on trying to keep the business local, mainly due to the fact that the equipment will need service.

Loveall said he didn’t like jerking the specs around. “I am not an engineer and not qualified to write specs for this,” he said. He called the jail’s water usage similar to “a little hotel” and that there is a need for specs in the design of the system.

The board voted to move ahead with the design, specs and call for quotes.

County board members also spent some time at the meeting answering many questions about the jail from high school juniors from Blue Earth Area and United South Central. They were at the meeting as part of Boys and Girls County, sponsored by the American Legions in the county.

Other business

In other business, the county board;

• Agreed to pursue a RFP (request for proposal) concerning hiring outside transit management. Board members called it the first step towards future joint ventures with Martin County.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz said that he wanted it clear that the intention was not to spend any more money than is currently spent. Steier added that the aim was also to have the same or more service, also.

• Okayed a proposal from County Engineer John McDonald to remove two bridges and replace four in the county this year. Low bid for the project was from Midwest Contracting at $341,400.