Published On: Wed, Dec 12th, 2007

County gives approval to hog confinement unit

HARTINGTON  — After a lengthy meeting with testimony from over 20 people, Cedar County Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a controversial hog facility, which will be located within two miles of the city of Hartington.
A standing-room-only crowd forced Commissioners to move the Tuesday meeting from the crowded Commission Chambers to the courtroom.
At the center of the debate is Matt Kathol’s plan to construct and operate a 600-head hog finishing unit along with a 1,200-head nursery on his farm near here.

A conditional use permit was granted by the Cedar County Zoning Board in November. That approval, however, was simply a recommendation to the County Board. The three-member Board of Commissioners had the final say on the matter.

Tuesday’s one-hour meeting started with Cedar County Zoning Administrator Dave Sudbeck presenting 28 items to be entered as evidence in the hearing, including the notifications of meetings, the  minutes from the last meeting, the Cedar County Zoning map, a legal survey of the land, a waiver of distance and a site plan and blue prints for the building and facility.

Commissioners heard from both the petitioner, Matt Kathol, and several people opposed to the project.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, County Attorney George Hirshbach told Commissioners, “the applicant appears to have met all of the state and local requirements.”
After everyone was given a chance to make their opinions known, Commission Chairman Frederick Pinkelman made a motion to approve the conditional use permit and Dave McGregor seconded it before it was unanimously approved.
Those in opposition to the hog confinement unit expressed concerns over health issues and possible water and air contamination.
Those favoring the proposal, expressed concern for economic development here.
“We talk about economic development in Cedar County. Here we have an opportunity for young people to come back and get going in the livestock business and generate some income,” said Belden area farmer Jim Miller. “This is bringing young people back and putting kids in our schools, which are shrinking all the time. This is a great way to get some people back into Cedar County.”

Ron Wortmann said he has lived just a few hundred feet from his 1,200-head hog operation for 31 years without any health or water problems.
Wynot area farmer Terry Foxhoven said the County Board would set a precedent with its decision.
“I have three boys that would like to get involved in animal agriculture. I think this is very critical for the future of Cedar County to keep our youth here,” he said.

Kathol, a fourth-generation Cedar County farmer, said he has jumped through all the hoops and sifted through all of the required state and county governmental red tape involved in puttng up a livestock unit.
“We’ve done everything the board has asked. I’ve done all of this without question. I just ask that this is what is heard (by the Board), and not this hear-say that people are talking about,” Kathol said to the Zoning Board prior to its vote.

Kathol said this facility will utilize the most up-to-date methods for utilizing waste from the facility.
“We’ve taken every step we can possibly take to make this operation effecient and environmentally safe,”  he said.  “I’d say we are on the leading edge of environmentally safe and efficient farming. With manure management, we can save our groundwater by the way we are approaching this whole operation.”
Gary Backhaus and Jim Eickhoff submitted several documents in opposition.
Any economic impact by this facility will be far-outweighed by possible health woes and declines in property values, they said.

A letter from Dr. Steve Vlach and information from an ‘odor footprint’ which is based on wind patterns was submitted by Kathol.
Dean Dendinger also has a concern that the feedlot and proposed hog confinement will be in the area of a creek which runs near Hartington.
“The ground surface and the water surface are tied together,” said Dendinger. “Let’s remember this permit is forever.”

Laura Krebsbach, from W.F.Y. Consulting, Lincoln, voiced her concern over the telephone from her office in Lincoln.
She said recent court cases prove that facilities like this one lower property values. Krebsbach said the burden to prove property values won’t be lowered, is on Kathol.
Hirshbach disagreed, though, saying it appeared that the burden of proof had been made in every way by Kathol.
Matt’s mother, Rosemary Kathol, said the argument that property values will go down because of the smell associated with the facility, simply are not true.

“I do have a hog facility within one hundred yards of my house. I don’t smell it very often, though,” she said. “They take care of this facility. They are good neighbors. They will make sure the neighbors are not bothered.”
Keevin Pinkelman agreed.
“I’ve raised hogs all of my life, and I don’t have any health problems,  thank God. I have six kids, not a one of them lives in Cedar County. Young people need a reason to come back. They need good jobs here. This will allow at least one young family to set up here,” he said.