Supervisors discuss hog confinements, TIF spending

Austin HarringtonSpecial to the
Journal

The Story County Supervisors meeting started Tuesday with a brief moment of silence for Supervisor Chairman Paul Toot who passed away Friday. Following that recognition of Toot’s service to Story County, Supervisor Rick Sanders accepted the role of Chairman and Supervisor Wayne Clinton accepted the position of Vice Chairman. Because Toot’s death left a vacancy on the board, a committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17, in the Public Meeting Room of the Story County Administration Building, 900 Sixth St., Nevada, to decide between appointing someone to fill the vacancy on the board of supervisors or holding a special election to fill the seat.

Following those discussions of how to move forward with county business, the board returned to its usual functions and began speaking about a hog confinement located between Colo and Zearing where the owners, Noel and Mary Texeira, have expressed interest in doubling the hog population to roughly 5,000.

According to Margaret Jaynes, the county’s environmental health director, the hog confinement, known as Happy Hula Farms, passed a series of questions laid out in the master matrix, which is a checklist used to score proposed livestock feeding operations in the county.

However, even with the confinement passing the master matrix test, members of the community were still concerned about what the expansion would mean for the area and the state’s water quality.

Ron Tjelmeland is a neighbor of Happy Hula Farms and he told the board that the expansion would make it difficult to catch a breathe of fresh air at his home.

“If it was in your backyard, you wouldn’t want it there either,” Tjelmeland said.

Brenda Brink, of Huxley, said she does not live near the area where the confinement is located but her concern was for all the Iowan’s who drink water that could be affected by hog confinements in the state.

“We have seen an increase in impaired waterways of 15 percent in the last two years. We need to take it seriously,” Brink said.

Brink said that due to an increase in antibiotic resistant infections, such as MRSA, that have been linked to the amount of antibiotics used on livestock, she believes that the county needs to issue a moratorium on confinements.

The board listened to the concerns but then opted to recommend to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that the Happy Hula Farms be allowed to expand, stating that they didn’t believe it was the board’s place to stop a business from expanding that has worked so well with the county in the past.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved an amendment to the Story County Urban Renewal plan to include a project at the Iowa State Research Park in Ames. Because of that approval, the county will now have to find a funding source for the project. The most likely source of that money is through tax increment financing or TIF dollars that is collected in the county. Arden Greiner, a Story County resident, spoke to the board and said that he didn’t believe that TIF money collected in rural areas of Story County should be spent on projects in Ames, instead Greiner said he believes the funds should be allocated to the area in which they are collected.

Sanders said he believed that could lead to a dangerous trend for those rural areas.

“It’s a slippery slope if we ever start to draw lines within Story County,” Sanders said.

Sanders added that most of the taxable valuation of the county is from Ames and areas west of Interstate 35.

“So if we ever start to draw lines and say we’re only going to spend dollars where they come from, our county’s going to be in tough shape because we’re going to have ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ within the county. The reality is if it’s good for Story County and I don’t care if it happens in Zearing or Ames or anywhere else, if it’s good for the county, it’s good for the county,” Sanders said.

With that comment, the supervisors approved the amendment and directed staff to start moving forward. The use of TIF dollars has not been agreed upon yet, that decision will come at a later date but Sanders said that this vote does indicate that the county is probably moving in that direction.