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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Feedlot owner, county reach agreement on road maintenance

Updated: Apr 6

This photo taken in January shows ground trampled into mud north of 1350 Road near where water has washed across and silted in the road. A county official said Aust Cattle Co. has moved fence back back from the road to allow a wider swath grass barrier and been reseeded. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)


By Charlene Sims, info@linncountyjournal.com


MOUND CITY – On Monday, March 11, the Linn County Commission heard that the road issues near the Aust Land and Cattle Co. east of Centerville were going to be resolved by owner Brad Aust and the county working together.


At the Jan. 29 commission meeting, the road issues were brought to the attention of the commissioners through a letter from Rogene McPherson, a long-time Centerville resident who lives by the feedlot, which started operating several years ago.


McPherson’s letter expressed her concerns about the water that ran off the feedlot onto the road making her travel to her home difficult and dangerous. She asked why Aust had not been made responsible for financially assisting the county with the roads as the zoning regulations required.


At the Jan. 29 meeting, the commissioners decided to have Public Works Director Shaun West have a meeting with Aust to work on these issues. West said that the same day that he passed this information to the commissioners Aust reached out to him. 


Since then, West and Aust have been working on resolving the road issues, according to West. 


At this week’s meeting, West reported that he had drawn up an overview of his meeting with Aust, and he was going to present it to the commissioners. However, since Aust was present at the commission meeting, the issues could be discussed now.


“What are we going to take care of? What is this involving is my question?” asked Commissioner Jim Johnson.


West said that Aust had agreed to pay dust control for the immediate neighbors through the county program. Aust said that he would speak directly with three other neighbors and work with them on dust control.


West also told the commissioners that Aust has been watering down the roads to keep the dust down. 


West said that he had done a three-year cost estimate or comparison of those roadways to others the same length. He said those roads had been lower in maintenance costs the first two years of the study but the third year there had been an intersection project that had increased the maintenance costs. 

                                                                                                     

West said that he tried to be fair and impartial in his assessment of this issue and the factors that comprised it. He noted that Aust’s operation impacts taxpayer infrastructure more than residential traffic.


West added that he could not tell the commissioners how much it affected the roads without an engineering study. Because of that, West said he had not given a final recommendation.


“The drainage resolution document in the packet covers the area most affected by silting and water crossing the roadway,” West said. “This is also an area that takes runoff from where Mr. Aust is moving the fields to crops so that the impact will be lessened by that.


“The next consideration is what responsibility is his by his operation impact to the infrastructure and what is the county’s for raising the road bed in that area.” 


McPherson had asked in her letter why Aust was not paying for the large amounts of gravel that had been put on that roads to keep them passable. The commissioners did not talk about that or a road maintenance agreement for the future.


West said that Aust had moved his fencing back to allow a grass barrier between the operation and the right-of-way. 


Aust said later that work had been done to keep him in compliance with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) regulations.


In an email, KDHE communication manager Elizabeth Moore said that even though there had been no official complaints, KDHE officials had inspected Aust’s operation. The agency also sent letters to neighboring properties asking about their concerns with Aust’s feedlot operation.


After hearing the concerns of the neighbors and inspecting the feedlot, KDHE informed Aust what was needed to bring his facility into compliance.


In an email, Moore  said that if there are permit violations with a facility, the main goal is to bring the facility into compliance. She also said that, if there are permit violations, many factors are considered before any penalties are administered, and penalties vary per violation.


Because of the current status of the pens when inspected, it was necessary to require Aust to remove some of the cattle so that grass could be seeded. KDHE required that the grass be allowed to grow before the pens are repopulated.


Although the Aust feedlot was in operation before the KDHE inspection, Moore said it was not essential for the owner to apply for a permit, however, the building can be done prior to permitting at the owner’s risk of extra expense if the project did not meet KDHE standards. 


In the meeting, West told the commissioners that Aust suggested that signs go up on and off of Kansas Highway 7 to tell drivers who are unfamiliar with the area that they are not using the correct roadways in and out of that operation. The roads of concern are County Road 1425 and Count Road 1500 that go west from the Farlinville area. Trucks have gotten stuck on those steep hills. 


West said that another truck on the way to a feedlot southwest of La Cygne, near County Road 1095 and 1800 Road, had gotten stuck on the steep hills there because the driver was following internet mapping directions.


No mention was made of making an agreement with Aust about specific routes for the trucks so that they would not cause as much damage to roads in Linn County.


West told the commissioners that he would check with the state about putting signs up on K-7 Highway.


West said, “This will keep dust down on the roadways that are not treated and damage to the roadways would be limited to the area of operation.”


He pointed out that putting signs up would be a “huge low-cost, high-yield answer” to the problem.


West said that since this was the first roadway agreement with a feedlot, he would like the commission to give him direction on whether he should reach out to all licensed feedlots in the county or wait until there were complaints. 


The commissioners suggested waiting until there were complaints.


“I agree with that,” said Johnson. “I think we can take care of our own.”


He said that dust control was acceptable, but he did not want to set any precedents requiring that from any other feedlot operators.


Johnson said that if Aust has agreed to it and wants to be a good neighbor, he had no issue with it.


Raising the road in the area by the feedlot was discussed and Aust offered materials, soil for building up road to the county. He also offered a place on his property for the county to place the silt they removed from the ditches. 


Aust said he would like to put a temporary road in while the work was going on so his feed trucks did not have to go around 4½ miles to get there.


“It’s come across that road for years, long before you was there,” said Johnson about water washing across 1350 Road. 


However, several neighbors interviewed by the Journal disagreed and indicated it had only become a problem when the land north of the road had been overgrazed.


McCullough asked if this was something that had to be done this year or if it could wait since Johnson said it had been like that for years.


Johnson said that if Aust was willing to have the county fix the road, they should do it now. 


Hightower agreed, saying that it would show the people in the area that they were trying to answer their complaints. 


Johnson said, “I believe it was even stated back when we did our rewriting of our regulations, Mr. Kaup, the attorney, told us when it comes to feedlots, it’s going to be something statewide. It’s going to be hard to regulate or to put more regulations on feedlots. We do have regulations there, but I don’t think, I think it’s been tested statewide and I don’t think you’re going to get too much.”


Johnson operates at least one feedlot in the southern part of the county. 


Hightower told Aust that he had been generous in taking care of the issues with the roads and dust.





 

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