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CAFO request approved, highlights area drainage issue

Davison County North Offices. (Republic file photo)

Stop us if you've heard this one before.

Neighbors aren't sure a proposed concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Davison County is the right fit for their area. But unlike other CAFO projects, the opposition isn't because of the sight, smell or sound of the operation.

The Davison County Commission unanimously approved a CAFO including 2,400 hogs west of Betts Road between 267th and 268th streets in the southern part of the county. Commissioners approved the conditional use permit for the CAFO because it didn't violate any local rules, but neighbors had concerns the poor drainage in the area would be heightened through the project.

"That flood map that they've got on there is not correct," said neighbor Chad Neugebauer at Tuesday's regular Davison County Commission meeting. "That field that they want to set the barn in is actually the worst flooding field of all of them."

On behalf of the landowner, Austin Luebke said the project brings some value-added to the land by providing him with manure for application. Chris DeRocher, who filed the request, said his responsibility will be site maintenance, while the contract for the farm will be held by Sunterra Farms.

Commissioner Denny Kiner asked Luebke if any other sites had been assessed for the project, to which Luebke said "I do not know if any research has been done." But A1 Development Solutions' Paul Kostboth, who conducted the "odor modelling" for the site, said the location was "98 percent nuisance free" for neighbors.

Before voting, Kiner pointed to the fact that the dispute neighbors had was with the location that occasionally has flooding issues, not the CAFO itself.

"Looks like the drainage is the problem, not the farm," Kiner said.

Commission Chair Brenda Bode said drainage should be addressed in the future, and other commissioners followed suit in that request. Bode also said she'd prefer the project is locally-owned, but said that's not up for the county to decide.

Just before the vote, Kiner suggested the CAFO discussion may have been a blessing in disguise.

"Might be the best thing that ever happened to get the drainage fixed over there," Kiner said.

James River bridge closure coming

Davison County recently received "awesome news" about its next bridge project, according to Bode.

Starting 10 a.m. on Feb. 19, the James River bridge on 250th Street between 410th and 411th avenues will be closed. And Bode said the closure for a full bridge rehabilitation could wrap up as soon as June.

"But I had a hard time not jumping up and doing the happy dance when he told me the first of June," Bode said when she learned of the possible completion timeline.

The full rehabilitation project is one of the Bridge Improvement Grant projects approved by the state in 2016. At the time of its approval, the rehab was expected to cost $739,000, with $591,200 covered through grant funds. The commission recommended against releasing updating financial estimates until they have been finalized.

Detour signs are expected to go up on Thursday and Friday, according to Deputy Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Jenniges, and Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke said the impact on traffic could be light.

"The only traffic that's seriously affected are those on the other side of the river," Bathke said.

Other business

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a variance request from Derek Mueller for a side-yard variance, a conditional use permit request for an asphalt paving business (ProSeal, Inc.) from Dan Mohr, a conditional use permit request for a commercial trucking terminal from Petrik Sanitation and a plat request from DeRocher.

• Set 10 a.m. on March 13 as the time and date to open weed chemical bids.

• In an effort to resolve the indigent defender contract, the county met with attorneys E. Steeves Smith and Doug Papendick to determine that they will continue to be paid at the contract rate beyond March 1 for casework they've done their due diligence to resolve but is not yet completed.

• Met with Veteran Service Officer Craig Bennett, who said it's been a "seamless transition" since he's been hired. Former VSO Jessica Davidson, who was terminated in November, was in attendance for the meeting. Bennett said the county will continue World War II veteran coin distribution, and said a Vietnam War veteran reunion will be held all day Feb. 24 at the Ramada Inn in Mitchell. The county allowed Bennett to attend a Feb. 19 World War II coin ceremony even though it takes place on a holiday. Bennett said the holiday event maximizes the opportunity for families to attend the ceremony. The board also authorized his attendance at the Feb. 24 event.

• Authorized the purchase of a cellphone app called Field Ops. Davison County Chief Deputy Steve Harr said it would cost $1,500 in the first year for configuration and service fees, and it allows deputies and the sheriff to check in with dispatch directly from their phone when a radio is not immediately available, take secure photographs without the need for a camera and more. Harr expects minimal training will be necessary.

• Accepted the resignation of Deputy Auditor Noelle Stoebner and authorized for the office to advertise that the county is now hiring for the position.

• Approved timesheets, recognized volunteers, authorized the auditor's account with the treasurer, approved abatements, denied welfare requests as presented and approved bills.