Morrison County Board

Morrison County Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski, far right) asks a question to Land Services Director Amy Kowalzek, bottom right, and Feedlot Officer Robert Wall, bottom left, during Tuesday's meeting. Looking on are commissioners Mike LeMieur, top left, and Randy Winscher, center.

A request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a new hog feedlot in eastern Morrison County led to a broader conversation about feedlots for the Morrison County Board of Commissioners, Tuesday.

Morrison County Land Services Director Amy Kowalzek and Feedlot Officer Robert Wall came before the Board on behalf of Donald and Debra Hayes of Hillman. The couple requested a CUP for a Tier III (651-1,000 head) hog feedlot near their property at 36305 203rd St. The issue advanced to the Board when it was recommended to be approved by the Planning Commission at its Jan. 25 meeting based on four conditions.

Those were:

• Abide by all local and state laws;

• Notify road authority when hauling manure during road restrictions;

• Abide by the good neighbor, feedlot odor minimization and stormwater plans stated within the application; and

• The feedlot owner shall notify the feedlot officer of manure clean out.

After a lengthy discussion, the Board approved the CUP with a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

The application states the couple plans to have 720 hogs in the feedlot. They currently run a hobby farm on the property and will have 791 animals in total, including horses and cattle. It also states they plan to utilize 189.3 acres of land they own for manure application and transfer to an additional 214.4 acres, giving them a total available acreage of 403.7.

The good neighbor plan spelled out in the document centers around identifying best practices and observing them “out of respect for their neighbors and the odor and disruption that manure management and farming create for their neighbors,” according to Kowalzek.

Much of the conversation centered on the potential odor, and mitigating it for the sake of nearby property owners.

Kowalzek said there are several ways to mitigate potential odors, ranging from manure pit additives to barn ventilation to natural barriers.

Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski asked the property owners — who were in attendance at the meeting — how they planned to handle potential odors.

“Like I said, I’m very clear, I know what animals smell like; I’m very clear on that,” Jelinski said. “I wonder if you can kind of help me and the Board to understand what your process is going to be.”

“We’ve been working with our contractors and the engineers on this and we’ve been working with — it’s called a smart control, which is our fan system,” Debra Hayes said. “That fan system will run automatically depending on where the wind is coming from; certain fans will turn off, other fans will turn on. We also can operate them from our cellphone. So, if we’re not home, the wind changes, it will alert us.

“We’re trying to come up with and engineer this the best way we can,” she continued. “This barn is going to be closer to our home than anybody else’s, and we don’t necessarily want that smell, either.”

According to the “Findings of Fact” portion of the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the feedlot received an OFFSET rating of 95%, while the required rating feedlots must receive in order to be considered is 91%.

OFFSET stands for Odors From Feedlot Setback Estimation Tool. Kowalzek described it as a modeling tool that factors in prevailing winds, the size of the barn, number of head, any control technologies and setback of the nearest residence to determine a best estimate as to what percentage of the time “the odor would rise to the level where it would be an issue for a neighbor.”

“The reason that I’m asking that particular question is because, at the Planning Commission meeting, there was one individual that made a comment and something to the effect of, ‘Well, I live across the road,’” Jelinski said. “Whether we live across the road or not is neither here nor there, but I want to know what it’s going to smell like and how the stink is going to be handled. Quite honestly, I think that person deserves a better answer than, ‘Well, we’ve got the 95% OFFSET rating’ or whatever it might be.”

Commissioner Randy Winscher asked whose responsibility it would be to notify neighbors when the feedlot owners intend to haul or spread manure. Kowalzek said it is made clear during the application process that the responsibility falls on the feedlot owner. Even if there is an agreement between the owner and the hauler that the latter will contact neighbors, if there is a violation, that would fall on the property owner.

“When we’re issuing the conditional use permit, then we’re working with them on what their conditions are and when they’re communicating to us when they’re pumping,” Kowalzek said. “That’s also one of the requirements. When they’re spreading, they need to be contacting us and we have that conversation with them at that time.”

Shortly before calling for a vote on the CUP, Board Chair Mike Wilson reminded the Hayes family that the conversation was not intended to put them on the spot.

“I just want you to know, a lot of these questions that have been asked today, we’re trying to re-do ourselves just plain on hog barns, because whenever we have these, we do get a lot of questions from people,” he said. “We’ve been getting them. We haven’t had a hog barn application for a while, so I think we are trying to refresh our memory on a lot of this. It’s not personally against you.”

Board of Commissioners Briefs:

In other business Tuesday, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners:

• Received a report from Morrison County Social Services on energy assistance. A total of 812 households in the county were served with primary heat assistance; 14 received energy-related repair assistance and 23 got crisis service between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020;

• Approved annual establishment licenses for Patrick’s Bar and Grill in Pierz and Backdraft Barbecue, a mobile food truck;

• Authorized Public Works Director Steve Backowski to establish, sign and remove road restrictions;

• Authorized Backowski to negotiate 2021 gravel pit agreements with property owners for use on the county highway system;

• Approved a resolution to distribute cleanup and recycling grants to cities and townships;

• Approved a 2021 solid waste hauler license to Grinning Bear Roll-Off LLC of Backus;

• Approved a request to invoice the final payment of $64,207.32 to the owners of public ditch No. 16;

• Approved a request for any invoices unpaid by Nov. 30, 2021, to be assessed over a five-year term with an interest rate of 1% return to the general fund;

• Approved a request to engage the Office of the State Auditor to conduct Morrison County’s 2020 audit;

• Approved a request to abate the penalty of late payments on property taxes for taxes payable in 2021 between May 18 and July 31; and

• Approved final payments totaling $122,963.01 to three separate contractors who worked on the Morrison County Government Center project.

The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners is a planning session at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the Board Room at the Morrison County Government Center.

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