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Unhappy neighbors

By Staff | Sep 25, 2016

Josh Evan, left, stands at Tuesday’s County Board meeting to address concerns of Dunbar Township citizens. Evan was one of several public guests to campaign against the issuing of a conditional use permit to Daryl Raimann, right, and R&R Hogs.

Decisions, decisions.

The Faribault County Board of Commissioners had plenty of those to make Tuesday, and they had quite an audience to do so.

Nearly all seats were filled for much of the morning, and a hearing for a conditional use permit (CUP) in Dunbar Township had a county sheriff’s deputy on hand to monitor a group of public guests.

The visitors came and went peacefully, but their campaign to deny a CUP to Josh Raimann and R&R?Hogs was a concerted effort and, ultimately, fell short.

“We have grave concerns,” said Chelsey Evan, one of several guests opposing R&R’s request to construct and operate a feedlot with more than 1,000 animal units hogs, to be exact in their township.

Accompanied by her husband, Josh, she pleaded to the commissioners that Raimann’s new facility would be a “devastating” blow not only to the value of her nearby home but to the quality of her childrens’ lives.

“I consulted with a local realtor,” she said, “and I was advised that this is greatly going to reduce my bargaining power as a homeowner.”

Warranting nods of approval from others in the audience, she continued by telling the commissioners that rural business is not necessarily bad, but that she is concerned with the feedlot’s potential impact on air and water quality in the area.

“We’re not opposed to agriculture,” she said. “We understand it. We love it. But if this passes, we will be moving.”

Evans’ husband, Josh, shared similar sentiments with the board, citing concerns with how others in the township were or, in their case, were not properly notified about the sudden possibility of feedlot construction.

“I know the value of our home is going to drop,” he said. “And they’ve got plenty of acres where they could put this instead of here.”With commissioner Tom Warmka acknowledging raised hands and directing further comment, at least two others contributed to the efforts against R&R’s request.

“Enough is enough already,” said Donna Weckworth, of Wells. “Why our township?”

Her questions were reiterated by Bradley?Bruegger, another public guest who raised concerns over the CUP at a separate hearing and was vocal once again in front of the commissioners.

“I received no notification of this,” he said, “and I’ve given out letters from my doctor about health concerns.”

Health concerns, Bruegger added, that could be worsened by the influx of a feedlot atmosphere in the township.

Commissioner Tom Loveall, along with each of his fellow board members, assured the visitors that their comments were warranted.

“Obviously there’s a lot of local concern,” he said, “and one of the big questions is the safety of the water and the wells.”

Those very concerns were large enough for commissioners Greg Young and Bill Groskreutz to suggest that a CUP should only be issued on the condition that R&R either pays for local well water testing or the inclusion of biofilters for pollution management at its new facility.

Neither condition, however, proved elaborate enough to draw the rest of the board’s approval.

“I get the concepts of what you’re saying,” Loveall said, “but we’re asking for things we don’t know details about.”

Constraining R&R for specific issues that may or may not surface down the road could also be a hindrance to the CUP process as a whole, Loveall added, suggesting that safety should be prioritized without issuing vague restrictions.

Richard Raimann, father of Josh at R&R, joined the discussion from the audience by assuring the board that safety is not something that would be bypassed for the sake of a new feedlot. And, perhaps just as strongly, he emphasized the importance of the local agriculture growth R&R would promote with the help of the permit.

“I feel the hurts,” Raimann said, motioning to the rest of the public crowd. “Honestly, I do. But you’ve also got to keep young farmers around.”

Commissioner John Roper mirrored Raimann’s words when it came time to vote on the pressing matter.

“I’m really divided because of the concerns of some of these people,” he said. “But in 10 years, all these old farmers will be gone, and we’ve got to establish young growth in the community.”

Granting the CUP to R&R, Roper reasoned, would at least be a local step to ensuring some of that youthful movement takes shape.

And if the statements by Daryl Raimann, another accompanying member of the family business, were any indication, the R&R motto centers not only on advancing the next generation of agriculture but doing so in a professional manner not the destructive one some of the public may have suggested.

“We take pride in our farm,” Raimann said. “It’s a small business to keep us and the community going, and we’ve crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s to do this.”

Like Roper, Loveall agreed to cast his support for the issuing of the permit, forcing a 2-2 tie thanks to opposing votes from Young and Groskreutz.

Warmka, recalling his own experiences with hog facilities, sided with R&R to settle the ordeal. Reiterating that safety is the highest priority in operation of the feedlot, he thanked the public for its contributions but proclaimed confidence in the Raimanns’ operation.

“If they run it like they have run their farm,” Warmka said, “they will make sure it works.”

And although the feedlot was Tuesday’s most involved decision, it was not the only one of the day for the County Board.

At this week’s session, the commissioners also:

Approved a preliminary gross levy of $10,841,497 and a preliminary levy after program aid reductions of $10,556,171.

“The gross levy increase,” said county auditor John Thompson, “works out to about 3.64 percent, which we’ll try to work down from.”

Heard updates on construction projects on North Main Street in Blue Earth and at Woods Lake Park in Elmore.

“September 30 is still the listed completion date for street work,” county engineer Mark Daly told the board, referencing North Main.

As far as that street’s bridge, however, two piers have been poured for the new structure but some delays may come since “the river got big on us” as the result of recent weather.

At Woods Lake Park, meanwhile, the board voted 3-1 to approve further discussions with Beemer Well Drilling, which had previously bid to install a new well in the park but has submitted new costs of $19,765.13 for the project.

Daly said he plans to seek additional funding for the well work, which would likely require county contributions of more than $10,000.

Approved a separate conditional use permit for Darren Anderson, who sought the CUP for operation of a farm/commercial truck resale business in Seely Township.

Heard updates from?Central Services director Dawn Fellows about new county hires.

According to Fellows, two open positions in the Veterans’ Services office have been filled, with Jenna Schmidtke taking over as the secretary there and Ryan Bromeland assuming the role of assistant veterans services officer.