Opponents of proposed dairy in Hanson Co. switch lawyersALEXANDRIA — About 20 supporters of Concerned Citizens for Hanson County learned Wednesday night about an unexpected shuffle in legal representation in their group’s fight against a proposed 7,000-cow dairy operation.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
ALEXANDRIA — About 20 supporters of Concerned Citizens for Hanson County learned Wednesday night about an unexpected shuffle in legal representation in their group’s fight against a proposed 7,000-cow dairy operation.
Members Rob Bender and Stace Nelson moderated the meeting at the Hanson County Courthouse in Alexandria.
Bender told the group he learned nearly two weeks ago that the Mitchell law firm Morgan-Theeler has declared a conflict of interest and will no longer represent the group.
Bender said he was given the information by attorney Don Petersen, who had been representing the group. Peterson said a partner in his law firm had previously done work for some people who have involvement with the proposed dairy. Petersen was concerned the relationship would compromise any legal challenges against the dairy.
“It was kind of a blow,” Bender said.
Sioux Falls attorney Shawn Tornow, who had been representing the group in its fight against the dairy’s water-rights permit, has agreed to handle all legal work for the group. Bender expressed concern that it will take time for Tornow to get up to speed on research accumulated in the case.
The announcement was seen as a setback by some.
“I’m very disappointed they didn’t check for a conflict of interest first,” said Greg Bailey of Mitchell.
Nelson said the group plans to appeal the Oct. 5 decision of the state Water Management Board to give the dairy a water permit. That appeal has not been filed to date. The board shut down any input from citizens against the project and rubber-stamped the project, charged Nelson.
Other facts need to be heard in the case, he said. The aquifer the dairy will draw from will be seriously affected by the project, Nelson said. The heavy water use will draw down the aquifer and limit water availability to users in Sanborn, Davison and McCook counties, he believes.
“They only notified people in Hanson County,” he said.
Nelson said 406 Hanson County residents have signed up in opposition to the dairy. That is significant, he said, since only “1,400 to 1,500 people voted in the last election.” Not all signatures were from registered county voters, noted another group member, after the meeting.
Some at the meeting expressed annoyance that the Hanson County commissioners did not attend the meeting.
Commission chairman Chet McManus told The Daily Republic in a telephone interview before the meeting that State’s Attorney Jim Davies advised the commissioners not to attend the meeting in order to avoid any appearance of bias when the board considers dairy permit applications.
McManus said the board is awaiting information from Michael Crinion, who is seeking a tax increment financing district to aid the development of the dairy. The board needs to know what taxable structures will be included in the TIF before it can rule on it, he said.
Concerned Citizens member Bernie Kayser told the group not to be discouraged by recent events.
“Don’t think it’s over with,” he said. “It’s not.”
Bender said the next meeting of the group will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 26 at the courthouse.