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Neighbors: Jackrabbit Farm’s hog odor is too much

The neighbors of one of the largest swine farms in Davison County said Tuesday the owners are not doing enough to make sure the farm’s odor is limited.

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During the County Commission meeting’s public input portion Tuesday at the Davison County North Offices, residents Dave Truesdell, Lyle Reimnitz, Greg Bult and Craig Moller appeared before the board to tell the commissioners that the smell was too strong from Jackrabbit Family Farms, located about 10 miles south of Mount Vernon.

Because the issue was not on the agenda, no official action was taken.

Truesdell, who lives within a mile of the farm located in Baker Township, said the farm has not held up its end of the deal it made with the county when the project was approved in 2012.

“They agreed to be good neighbors. If this is being a good neighbor, they might as well leave,” he said, adding that he believes the heavy smell has made his wife sick at times.

About 5,000 sows are housed on the farm and produce about 3,000 piglets each week on the Jackrabbit farm, which is owned by shareholders in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa and is managed by the Pipestone System, which manages hog confinement operations for private owners. The sow barn produces piglets, which are then allotted out to investors based on the shares owned. Bluestem Family Farms, a hog operation in Beulah Township in Davison County owned by a group of farmer investors, is operated by Pipestone.

The project faced resistance when the Davison County Commission approved it in 2012, including questions posed by Reimnitz regarding the dust and the odor.

Commission Chairman John Claggett said he thanked the neighbors for coming in and said he hopes to meet in person with Jackrabbit Family Farms representatives to work on ways to address the issue.

Messages left for Pipestone CEO Luke Minion were unreturned Tuesday.

The complaints center on the barns’ exhaust system, which are referred to as biofilters.

According to a timeline provided by Davison County Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Nathan Wegner, the county has been told by representatives of Jackrabbit Family Farms that the biofilters are meant to keep disease out of the facilities, but don’t necessarily mitigate smell from the hog site.

Early in the conditional use permit process, the county mandated use of the biofilters as part of the project, but the installation of those was not a final requirement when it was approved 4-0 by the commissioners.

What is in place now is not working for neighbors, they said.

“You walk outside and just about d--- near gag,” Truesdell said.

“They said it was going to stink 2 percent of the time,” said neighbor Lyle Reimnitz, who lives a mile from the operation. “That’s the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard.”

Wegner reported to the commissioners that the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicated to him they usually don’t do much with odor control and would not weigh in on the matter. He also said it depends largely on the wind direction and speed.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke stated he inspected the site in late May and the wind was fairly calm, leaving only a slight smell that was detected at a site within a mile of the site.

Commissioners Gerald Weiss and Denny Kiner received multiple calls about the odor emanating from the farm in May and said there is an issue.

“I drove around that,” Weiss said. “I’ve got to admit there’s some smell.”

Kiner said the issue has to be addressed, and this meeting will be a start.

“I’m paying taxes and I can’t open the windows in my house,” Reimnitz said. “Is that fair?”

The farm’s owners have planted trees on three sides of the farm, according to Wegner. The planting of trees was a conditional use permit requirement.

The county commissioners said they would like to put together a group that would examine the situation at Jackrabbit Family Farms and perhaps look at other biofilter situations before addressing the issue.

Budget process underway

The Davison County Commission took an initial look at the 2015 budget Tuesday, with the bulk of adjustments still ahead.

A total of $10.75 million in requests was in front of the board and is not considered to be the complete request for each department. Many of the department heads will be asked to come before the board and defend their budget requests in coming meetings.

On a per-department basis, the county road and bridge budget is penciled in for the largest request for 2015 at $3.65 million, up 27.75 percent over last year’s approved mark of $2.85 million. The county’s 2013 road budget was in between, at $3.21 million. The bulk of the increases would come in expenses on chip seal projects, totaling $550,000. Highway Department Superintendent Rusty Weinberg has also asked for an additional $10,000 for raises for three employees in 2015, above the standard 2 percent plus 50 cents per hour currently scheduled for county employees.

The county jail is requesting a 16.6 percent budget increase to move to $683,194 and the weed control budget is asking for a 18.6 percent jump to move to $126,012 for 2015.

Among the notable decreases from the 2014 budget is the poor relief budget, down 5.4 percent from last year to $360,761 and the courthouse budgetdown 11.8 percent to $136,889.

Other business

During regular business, the commissioners:

  • Heard from resident Carol Ragle who would like the county to establish rules for how they will go about reassessments during the Board of Equalization appeal process.
  • Approved five properties to be assessed before being sold as surplus property after being taken on tax deed. Those properties include 708 W. 6th Ave., Mitchell; 219 N. 2nd St., Ethan and three unbuilt lots which include: Lot 7 of D. and B. Carlson’s First Addition, a subdivision of a portion of the Northeast Quarter of Section 31, Township 104 North, Range 60 West of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Davison County, South Dakota; Lot 31, Island First Addition, a subdivision of the Southeast Quarter, Section 31, Township 104 North, Range 60, West of the Fifth Principal Meridian, City of Mitchell, Davison County, South Dakota; West 56 feet of Outlot 7A, a subdivision of Irregular Tract No. 7, Southwest Quarter of Section 15, Township 103 North, Range 60, West of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Davison County, South Dakota.
  • Received an update on the new east courthouse parking lot, which saw dirt work begin Monday. Concrete and asphalt work will follow soon, according to Maintenance Supervisor Mark Ruml.
  • Heard the second quarter report from county welfare director Dawn Grissom, which included three welfare requests for a hospital charge of $119,784.
  • Approved a raffle request for the Helping Hand Pantry for their 10th Annual Holiday Shopping Extravaganza which is going to be held Nov. 1 at the Davison County Fairgrounds.
  • Tentatively set an auction date for Sept. 20 at the Davison County North Offices for county surplus items.
  • Approved bills and the previous meeting’s minutes.