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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission seeks solution to complaints about feedlot

The cattle sorting facility owned by Aust Land and Cattle Co. east of Centerville. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Jan. 29, a letter from Centerville area resident Rogene McPherson to the commissioners was read by Commission Chair Jason Hightower regarding the Aust Land and Cattle Co. feedlot on 1350 Road.

McPherson’s concerns were about the water that ran off of the feedlot. She stressed that this run off was not a one-time occurrence and happened frequently, making the road she had to travel to her home difficult and often dangerous. 

She asked that the commissioners come down and travel 1350 Road to see what the residents of that area near Centerville had to endure.

In the letter she questioned why feedlot owner Brad Aust had not been made responsible for financially assisting the county with the roads as the zoning regulations required.

McPherson also expressed concerns that her property values had probably decreased because of the way the area is being managed.

McPherson continued by saying that she would not be intimidated because she did not work for the county and could not be fired and in fact, she believed that the commissioners worked for her.

Public Works Director Shaun West said that, in all fairness, the same day he passed this on to the commissioners, Aust reached out to him and they had a productive discussion about it. West said that Aust forewarned him that there was an incident.

Commission Chair Jason Hightower said that he would like for the commission to give West and Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson permission to have a meeting with Aust to discuss the roadway issues and concerns in that area as well as his permits he has in place through the state.

Commissioner Jim Johnson asked, “So what are you going to decide that then you’ll be down to see me next because I hung a semi up on the hill by my house?”

Johnson also operates a feedlot, although it is smaller than Aust’s operation.

Commissioner Danny McCullough asked that Wilson come in and explain what is in the policy handbook.

Wilson explained that in the new zoning regulations under Article 16, there is a section on confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) description and what is supposed to be done with it. 

Wilson read that CAFOs require:

• A conditional use permit (CUP), a development plan showing the location of all habitable structures within one mile of the property to be used in the operation, 

  • Copies of all permit documents from KDHE or the state, 

  • The method to be used in disposing of all dead animals, 

  • A road maintenance agreement, and 

  • Copies of all annual reports that are submitted to the state. For more specific information from the zoning regulations, click here. 

McCullough asked,  “Where do we go, what’s going on?”

Hightower suggested that the county “start with having a preliminary meeting with the one that we are getting  the complaints on and see if we can’t work together and figure out what the issues are with the roads and figure out where we can help and where we can get them taken back up to snuff.  Where they can help and we can work together to try to find a solution for the problem. That’s the path forward that I see.”

McCullough asked, “Is he doing everything that the policy says?”

Wilson answered, “Right now there is not a conditional use permit.”

Wilson said his recommendation would be with this regulation it can be taken out or amended and can be sent back to the planning and zoning for that to be looked at.

County Counselor Gary Thompson said,  “Let me just jump in here and give you a little bit of perspective on this, if I may, you notice it says there that a confined animal feed operation requires a conditional use permit and compliance with the following. Those are two separate requirements. 

“It’s my opinion that this particular operation we are talking about doesn’t require a CUP because it was in existence before these regulations went into place. It’s called a legal non-conforming use it doesn’t conform with the regulations but it is legal because it already existed.

“So the only thing then that would apply to him were the parts of this that are not about a conditional use permit, which means supplying us with copies of his permits, doing a road maintenance agreement and keeping us informed about his manner of disposing of dead animals. The other parts, in my opinion, are terms of a CUP.” 

In a later telephone interview, Thompson said that there was an article in the 1997 zoning regulations about feedlots, and if the 1997 zoning regulations are interpreted as needing a conditional use permit, then Aust's is no longer considered a legal non-conforming use. 

“The state’s already taken care of all the dead animals, they get people to inspect the feed lots. Anybody that has a permit gets inspections,” said Johnson.

Thompson said, “And all we ask is that they keep us informed what the process is just so we have it on record.”

“So if we are getting complaints, we can say here’s what happening everything’s up to snuff,” said Hightower.

“I say what’s changed, that’s my deal, what’s changed? It’s been there a long time what’s changed?” asked Johnson.

Thompson said,  “In my opinion the only thing that has changed is that it requires a road permit.”

Johnson replies,  “The road permit says ingress and egress, roads for egress and ingress.”

Thompson explained,  “That’s right, so any road I use to get to my house is a road for my ingress and any road I use to leave is for egress.”

Johnson replied, “You are going to start charging people for… if I go complaining about my neighbor ,you are going to start charging him a road use tax? I think he pays that every year when he pays the taxes.

“Just like me, if that’s the case my neighbor goes to complaining about me then you are going to go out there and jump on me is what I’m saying.”

“If you fall into the regulations you’d have to either revise the regulations or ….,” said Thompson. 

“I think we’re paying the use of the road use okay we got big businesses in this county that use the roads too but we are not after it,” said Johnson.

Thompson told Johnson, “I didn’t write the regulations you guys passed them.”

Hightower repeated, “All I am asking for is a preliminary meeting for them to sit down and talk about what they need, what we need and try to get things moving forward so that we are not having this blow up into a bigger issue.”

Aust said that he had sat at the commission meeting and heard them talk about the county roads and the roads by him are the same. He said whatever the road conditions are, it’s not because of anything we do.

Aust said he was not opposed to sitting down with West and coming up with a plan. He said he’s moved all of his fences back away from the county roads to give the county the opportunity to do  maintenance.

“We want this to be better,” said Aust. “I would like to have better roads for the trucks to come in and out of. But four years ago, the roads were worse. 

“I do know this and I saw it and I saw how the county came in then and fixed it. They did make it better. They hauled thousands of tons of rock,” said Aust.

Johnson commented, “I just think we are growing government, we keep growing government. Pretty soon we are going to need more people. It’s going to take more of the taxpayers dollars to run the government.”

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