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Feedlot Program moves forward

Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Monday, June 11, 2001

After a two-week interval, the County Board was back in session last Tuesday to tackle a full agenda that included several departmental presentations and a public hearing.

The County Feedlot Officer, Mike Frauenkron, joined with Kevin Scheidecker of the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office and Donna Rasmussen of the Water Quality office to present the County Feedlot Program Workplan to the Board for approval.

The countys feedlot inventory program has been underway since last summer when Frauenkron instigated a feedlot registration program. The Workplan is a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) requirement, and documents the activities the county will conduct to meet compliance with state and federal program and funding requirements.

To date, Frauenkrons office has registered 1,386 feedlots in Fillmore County. Of these, 811 are in the 10 to100 animal unit-range; 391 have 100 to 299 units; 171 have 300 to 999 units; and 13 are over 1,000 animal units.

In response to a question from Commissioner Duane Bakke, Frauenkron reminded the Board that not all feedlots have been registered yet. It is anticipated that the number of feedlots will change after field inventories are completed.

The MPCA Workplan covers a broad area of compliance, including inspections, permitting, registration and inventories, compliance goals, complaint response, and staffing levels.

On staffing, Frauenkron, Scheidecker and Rasmussen were also requesting Board approval to hire a Feedlot Assistant to help expedite the inventory process, which in turn would move the County to a higher level of compliance, thereby increasing the countys eligibility for receiving grant funding and cost-sharing.

To achieve this goal, the County has received federal grant funding through the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board for feedlot runoff reduction. Part of the money from this grant is designated to fund the Feedlot Assistant position for 20 hours per week, nine months a year for three years.

Despite the fact the Feedlot Assistant would be nearly completely funded through the federal grant, the Board spent a considerable time discussing the position. Board Chair Helen Bicknese questioned the practicality of having someone working nine months, then off for three months. The potential to lose the employee and have to hire and retrain a new one each year seemed likely to Bicknese.

To this, Frauenkron replied that it was tough to determine pollution hazards at feedlot visits when the landscape is snow-covered in the winter. Furthering the discussion, Policy Coordinator Karen Brown noted that there are "hidden costs" to every employee, such as benefits and workspace desks. Kevin Scheidecker informed Brown that the grant money covered benefits except for social security, and Frauenkron added that the assistant would not be a desk person, but a field person who performs site visits.

Commissioner Randy Dahl motioned to approve advertising the Feedlot Assistant position, and with a second by Commissioner Bakke, who announced that "Its not costing us anything" the motion carried 4 to 1, with Board Chair Helen Bicknese opposed.

As part of the feedlot presentation, Frauenkron and Scheidecker displayed a large aerial photomap of Newburg Township, showing the location of registered feedlots with respect to drainages, sinkholes and other landscape features.

According to Frauenkron, it is the intent of the Feedlot Office to complete similar maps of all of the countys townships and then present them to the township officers for review and comment.

To this, Chair Bicknese inquired as to why the township officers should be involved. "We want to have them involved, for verification," replied Frauenkron.

As the presentation came to an end, SWCD Supervisor Kevin Scheidecker stated, "I think we are doing a good job with feedlots, altogether."

Commissioner Bakke seemed to agree. "Im not getting any calls, and thats good," he responded.
Ironwood Landfill

In another water quality related issue, the Recycling Coordinator, Sandra Benson, updated the Board on an MPCA status change for the old Ironwood landfill southeast of Spring Valley.

The MPCA is proposing to delete the landfill from its Permanent List of Priorities status and classify it as a "qualified facility." This means the monitoring, testing, and response actions related to the site will be conducted by the MPCA instead of a contractor.

The Ironwood Landfill was the first Superfund landfill in the state of Minnesota. Originally a dumpsite for mine tailings back in the 1950s, the site was permitted as a landfill in 1972.

In 1980, Advance Transformer, Inc., a Wisconsin transformer company, was given permission to dispose of solidified plastic waste in barrels at the site. However, 1400 of those barrels contained liquid volatile organic compounds that leaked into the groundwater.

A massive clean-up and pumping operation was begun in 1981. This effort has resulted in the pumping of over 238 million gallons of water into a lagoon where the VOCs are allowed to volatilize. Once the VOC concentration in the water meets water quality standards, the water is then discharged into the South Branch of the Root River.

While the level of VOCs has generally been reduced to acceptable Health Risk Limits (HRL), the level of vinyl chloride concentrations at the site are still well above the HRL levels. The MPCA plans to construct a new cover over the landfill site at a cost of $1 million, paid by the state.

Commissioner Harry Root expressed concerns about this change of MPCA status. Referring to the Ironwood site as an "open sore with me," Root also said the problems at the site would be with the county for a long time. "By no means do we want to sweep this under the table," he announced.

Commissioner briefs

During the course of the Tuesday morning meeting, the Board held a public hearing on the proposal to establish an Economic Development Authority (EDA) for Fillmore County. Brian Krambeer of Tri-County Electric and Terry Erickson of the Southeast Minnesota Development Corporation (SEMDC) were the only members of the public in attendance for the hearing. Both men spoke in support of the proposed EDA.

The County Board established a committee earlier in the year to study the need for an EDA. The committees recommendation was to move forward with an EDA. After the public comment was received, Board Chair Bicknese closed the public hearing, and on a motion by Commissioners Dahl and Marc Prestby, the board voted unanimously to approve the resolution to create an EDA.

The County Board also listened to a presentation of the Home Health Aide Program by Public Health employees Sharon Serfling, Lantha Stevens, and Julie Loven. This type of informational presentation serves to educate the commissioners on the nature of the services provided through Health Department programs.

By Mike McGrath

On the road again......

Engineer Ulring is back!

Former County Engineer, Gene Ulring is back on the job. But this time hell be back as a consultant, performing the duties of the County Engineer until a new, probationary engineer can come on board.

Under the Independent Contractor Agreement approved by the County Board at their meeting last Tuesday, Ulring assumed the duties of the County Engineer on June 5, and will work a maximum of 20 hours per week at $60.00 per hour. He will also have access to a county vehicle. The agreement will be subject to review on July 1, 2001.

Eugene Ulring served as the County Engineer for twelve years before retiring at the end of April 2000

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