Many concerned citizens attended the July 3 meeting of the county board. The agenda was amended to include discussion and possible action regarding the proposed Catalpa LLC hog farrowing facility to be located in section 7 and 18 in Newburg Township.
The comment period on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) had been extended to July 3 at 4:30 pm. During the Citizens Input portion of the meeting, several citizens implored the board to support the request for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a significantly more thorough environmental review.
Bonita Underbakke, Holt Township, insisted an EIS was necessary because the proposed facility could have significant environmental impact due to the fractured karst geology.
Ann Flynn, Lanesboro, said she was impressed by citizen comments at the recent MPCA informational meeting held at the Mabel Community Center. Speakers advocating for an EIS at that meeting were passionate and knowledgeable. They were afraid the hog facility would further contaminate the air, water, and soil. Flynn added that she didn’t feel questions were adequately answered by Dan Dykstra, assistant general manager of Waukon Feed Ranch, Inc., which is expected to manage the facility, and Catalpa LLC project consultant Jeff Bauman.
Eva Barr, Fillmore Township, asked the commissioners to use common sense. Something of this scale does matter; this is something our county has not contended with in the past. She requested commissioners push for an EIS.
Mike Jensen, Carrollton Township, commented, “Let’s get all the information; without an EIS, we don’t have all the information.”
Bonnie Haugen, dairy farmer in Canton Township, said their farm is within two miles of the site for the proposed facility. She said farming is a business; regulations can be difficult, but are important to protect our environment. Requesting an EIS is not out of line. Ownership of the facility can change. She referred to Mark Bishop’s statement at the Mabel meeting that he owned the biggest sinkhole in Fillmore County, Niagara Cave. He had stated that even knifed in manure seeps into the cave. Farming is a business that needs to be profitable and also needs to be responsible. Haugen requested that the board request an EIS.
Jennifer Cruse, Fillmore County resident, asked about the process. Commissioner Duane Bakke said nothing happens at the county level until state permitting is completed. Then, the Planning Commission would consider an application for a conditional use permit (CUP) and make a recommendation to the county board, who would approve or disapprove. Cruse asked if commissioners could at the very least comment individually to the MPCA. Commissioner Marc Prestby noted he already had.
Prestby stated he would like to see the county board send a letter supporting letters from Donna Rasmussen, SWCD, and two letters from feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron, and request an EIS on this project.
The SWCD letter noted that “preliminary results from MN Department of Agriculture’s Township Nitrate Testing Program completed in 2017 show that over 10% of the well water samples analyzed for Newburg, Amherst and Preble Townships had nitrate concentrations over 10 parts per million.” The groundwater is highly susceptible to nitrate contamination.
Frauenkron requests in a letter that an individual permit be issued rather than a general permit “so conditions and adjustments could be added to the permit.” Also, he requested land application of manure not be allowed where there is a shallow depth to bedrock. All land application of manure needs to be incorporated in one pass.
Bakke noted that ground penetrating radar has been done for other projects to help determine if it is a good site or not. Catalpa LLC is now applying for a “general permit.” Conditions could later be put on a CUP by the county. Bakke added that with a general permit, annual fees are less. A possible condition at the county level would require manure to be incorporated with one pass, except in an emergency situation.
Commissioner Randy Dahl maintained the county has fairly stringent ordinances. An EIS is required when there are a lot of unanswered questions from the applicant. Bakke noted at the Mabel meeting it was stated that there would not be finishing facilities in the area for biosecurity reasons. He admitted we don’t know the answers to some questions. Bakke said because of the size of the project it has to go to the state first. If they get a general permit and the state approves, the county would have a hard time turning it down. A request for an EIS should reference the three letters provided by SWCD and the feedlot officer.
The board unanimously approved a request for an EIS, referencing the three letters. The letter of support for an EIS was to be sent before this day’s deadline.
This same day a group of Fillmore County farmers and rural residents were to meet with MPCA assistant commissioner and governor Dayton’s senior advisor in St. Paul to demand an EIS.
Complete managed IT services
Discussion continued regarding IT Services. During the last meeting options for complete managed IT services offered by Marco were discussed. Marco representative Christina Welke was present to answer questions last week and this day. She said 98% of the time problems will be dealt with remotely. Complete managed IT services includes a backup option for technology data. If the county continues with some managed IT services and its current IT department, the backup for technology data will be a separate expense. The purchase of the backup equipment in this scenario would be $56,410.26.
A one time fee to do the Marco Technology Assessment is $3,500; this will be done to assess the county’s needs. With the 24/7 coverage for complete managed IT service, it will cost the county $11,796 per month for a three-year contract (a total of $141,552 per year). County coordinator Bobbie Vickerman estimated the savings which could be realized by going to complete 24/7 managed IT services could be about $94,000/year.
The three-year contract includes the backup for technology data. The complete managed IT services option would eliminate the need for the IT department, two employees. Vickerman recommended a three-month transition period (to October 15) allowing the current IT personnel to work with Marco to give them a better understanding of day to day activities.
The change to complete managed IT services was approved unanimously contingent on the county attorney’s approval of the three-year contract.
Other Business in brief
• Director of nursing Jessica Erickson requested and received approval to apply for Medicare Part B provider. There is a $569 fee every five years for the application. It allows county nurses to do immunizations.
Erickson updated the board on the county home care closure. She said we are officially closed out of home care and everyone is being taken care of.
• The board proclaimed July 15-21 Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision week. James Johnson, Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted Community Corrections, called attention to this year’s theme, “restoring trust and creating hope.” We want to call attention to the behind the scenes work of agents, who work with citizens struggling with addition helping them again become a contributing member of society. They work with juveniles struggling with anxiety. The county has been a member of the DFO since 1974; Bakke said it is a good way to do probation.
•Roxane Alden was hired as a replacement property appraiser effective July 30.
Bailey Peterson was hired as a paralegal in the county attorney’s office effective July 16.
• A resolution establishing an Absentee Ballot Board was approved.
• Vickerman reviewed the 2017 performance measures. It is a state program that the county participates in; the county receives 14 cents per capita for its participation. Most of the 13 goals were met or exceeded. A resolution to again participate in the program through the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office in 2019 was approved. A resolution to establish 2019 performance measures was approved. After discussions with department heads, the same performance measures will be included in 2019.
• Dahl discussed the renewal of the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) contract. For the last three-year contract, the county increased its contribution $4,500 each year. In 2018 Fillmore County contributed $228,309 to SELCO which supports the county’s seven libraries. Dahl said the libraries provide an important public function. He recommended offering $5,500 per year increase to SELCO for the three-year contract renewal.