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Jackrabbit Farms, neighbors battle over farm odor

Sean Simpson, who serves as general counsel for Pipestone System, speaks to the Davison County Commission Tuesday in Mitchell regarding Jackrabbit Farms. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)1 / 2
Davison County Commissioner Gerald Weiss speaks to the representatives of Jackrabbit Farms Tuesday during the commission's meeting in Mitchell. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)2 / 2

Despite both sides being in the same room, the war of words did not subside over the alleged smell at Jackrabbit Farms south of Mount Vernon during a Tuesday meeting of the Davison County Commission.

Representatives from Pipestone System, the firm that manages the hog facility for its investors, said they have taken every step to diminish the farm's odor.

"We can work to improve the efficiency, but I'll tell you this: If you're asking for it to be 100 percent odor free, it's not going to be that. We've never said it's going to be that," said Barry Kerkaert, a veterinarian with Pipestone.

Neighbor Lyle Reimnitz said that company representatives told him prior to the barn's construction that it would smell less than 2 percent of the time, and Jackrabbit simply must do better.

"I'm going to have to live there. I don't plan on dying any time today," Reimnitz said. "And I will not live with that stench in my yard."

The topic, which was discussed at the Davison County North Offices in Mitchell, was only a discussion item and the commissioners did not take any action.

Pipestone general counsel Sean Simpson believes the barn is operating at an efficiency rate of 80 to 90 percent. He also told the commissioners that Pipestone has previously done what both commissioners and neighbors have asked.

"I can tell you, from the standpoint of Jackrabbit, we've done what we said we were going to do," Simpson said, referencing that Pipestone spent $80,000 to improve the road in front of the farm and $30,000 spent on biofilters.

After the meeting, Commissioner Denny Kiner said he believes both sides are now at least understanding each other's point of view and feels progress is being made.

"We know something needs to be done," he said. "I think that Jackrabbit is now aware of the situation and I don't know if that was case before. I think they see that there is a problem."

Simpson said he believes the complaints may never go away.

"What I suspect is that we're in a position where we'll never fully satisfy the neighbors of the smell," Simpson said. "Until there's scientific data supporting some of this, we're not just going to spend money every month or year to try to meet these unreasonable requests."

Hardware pitch heard

The commission heard the price tag for a potential switch in the way the county buys its computers.

Combining hardware and software, the proposed plan would cost $4,147.50 per month, totaling $49,770 for a year. Factoring in the county's current IT service contract and other services with Tech Solutions, the county would spend about $79,000 per year on computer-related equipment.

Under the plan, which Tech Solutions calls "hardware as a service," the county would not own any of its computers or routers and instead would receive new computers every 4 to 5 years, depending on the device. The county would pay per month for the service and would adjust the cost as the county adds or takes away from the number of computers it needs.

The county currently spends about $35,000 per year on hardware alone, not counting additional software that has to be purchased for computers, leading commission chairman John Claggett to point out that the gap between the county's current costs and the proposed deal might not be that large. The county is slated to pay $35,568 in 2015 for Tech Solutions to provide IT assistance.

Tech Solutions Division Manager Ramon Shultz said his firm would be able to tailor the county's software needs to each department and would only enhance the relationship the two entities have with each other.

Commission chairman John Claggett said he's interested in the plan following Shultz's presentation and said the similarities in cost could make it worthwhile for the county.

Other business

During their regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners:

• Approved Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke's request to apply for bids to replace the county's 2005 GMC Jimmy, which Bathke said is "not the right rig for the job." A fully equipped new truck would cost the county $33,750, but the commissioners have not committed any money to date.

• Discussed the budget. Although the 2015 budget process was not on the agenda, Auditor Susan Kiepke said the county will likely have to trim $350,000 more from the proposed budget to meet revenue projections. The commissioners indicated they would like to reduce the $200,000 requested for new jail showers to $50,000 and pass on purchasing a new vehicle for the sheriff's office, estimated at $38,000.

• Discussed the county's role in Dakotafest road maintenance. Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg said the county has not charged the show's owners in the past to apply water and chemicals to the gravel road in order to reduce dust.

• Approved the upgrade of the 30-year-old alarm system at the Public Safety Building for a total cost of $14,815.74. Automatic Building Controls and Muth Electric will do the work, which will allow the county to detect the exact location of an activated alarm.

• Approved a request from Treasurer Christie Gunkel to install a fax line in the office that will hook into the copier.

• Met as the Davison County Board of Adjustment and approved a variance setback for Loren Gregerson in Blendon Township. The panel also approved a variance of one lot above the maximum 33 total lots in the Enemy Creek Estates development in Prosper Township, as requested by LLG Enterprises.

• Approved plats for: Lot 1 of Enemy Creek Estates in Prosper Township Section 14 at the request of LLG Enterprises; Lot 2A and 2B, Block 2 of B. and J. Devries First Addition in Section 31 of Perry Township at the request of David Devries; and Lot 4 and 5, block 8 of CJM Second Addition, and a portion of Livesay Lane and a Portion of Jamaicas Avenue, in the NW 1/4 of Section 32 in Perry Township at the request of CJM Consulting.

• Delayed a meeting with Sheriff Steve Brink regarding the purchase of a new copy machine, due to Brink's absence.

• Approved the previous meeting's minutes, bills and the auditor's account with the treasurer.

• Noted the absence of Commissioner Kim Weitala.