Sibley trustees narrowly OK letter of opposition to hog facility

SIBLEY — With one of six trustees abstaining, the Sibley village board voted 3-2 Monday night in favor of voicing opposition to a proposed hog-finishing facility that would be located 1.45 miles directly west of the town of 272 in western Ford County.

A letter addressed to the Ford County Board says village trustees feel the facility does not meet the last of eight siting criteria set forth by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

The letter questions whether the new construction is “consistent with specific projects involving community growth, tourism, recreation or economic development.”

The letter says the proposed facility is incompatible, “due to odor,” with local recreation at the Sibley Lake and village parks, community tourism such as the Sibley Fouth of July celebration, downtown renewal and potential new business, and attracting or retaining village residents.

The letter “insists” that the county board not give a favorable recommendation in March to the Illinois Department of Agriculture for the proposed facility. The state agency has the final say in whether the facility is allowed.

The letter was drafted and read aloud by Trustee Corey Volker, who then made the motion to have the president sign and send it to the county board. Trustee Greg Brucker seconded the motion.

Volker said his concerns are due to the facility’s “open pit with the potential to store up to one year’s manure from 5,000 hogs.”

Volker, Brucker and Tim Fillenwarth voted in favor of sending the letter. Trustees Ben Wurmnest and Jeff Gallagher voted against sending the letter.

Trustee Joe Jones abstained, stating that he does business with the Hartman family, which would own and operate the swine facility. Jones is an agent with Country Companies Insurance.

During the discussion, Wurmnest spoke in favor of the facility. Wurmnest said the proposed facility would be modern and nearly 1.5 miles from town, noting there are other livestock facilities located even closer to town.

Wurmnest also pointed out the village’s historical and future association with agriculture.

“We are surrounded by these facilities; they are part of our economy,” Wurmnest said. He added that at least two-thirds of the board’s trustees have incomes associated with agribusiness.

Wurmnest said he believes it is not the board’s place to tell a landowner “what they can or can’t do” with their property. His concern also was that the town would get a reputation for being against agriculture.

Fillenwarth said he is not concerned with the odor but rather with potential damage to the Mahomet Aquifer, which supplies the village’s water. Fillenwarth said he believes the facility’s water usage and plans to inject hog manure into the soil could have long-term consequences to the aquifer’s purity and water level.

In voting in favor of sending the letter, Brucker said that although he is involved with agriculture, there was a need to “put my trustee hat on” and vote the way his constituents indicated. Brucker said all residents who have talked with him are opposed to the facility.

Because the village does not have a zoning board, it cannot control what happens within a 1.5-mile radius of village limits in the same way that other towns with zoning boards can.

Water rates to increase
After considerable discussion about needs for water improvements but concern for residents’ budgets, the board voted unanimously to raise the village’s base water rate by $10 per month, beginning with the June quarterly billing.

The increase is necessary to pay for major improvements to the village’s water system. Improvements include replacing the very small existing water main pipe with 6-inch pipe. The existing main runs along the west side of Illinois 47.

Improvements to the village’s water-treatment facility are also included in the plan, as are all-new meters with automatic usage-reading capability that will create computerized billing to be installed at each residence and business.

A recommendation from engineer Merle Ingersoll estimated a total increase of $15 per month will be needed to repay a loan the village will take out to pay for the improvements.

Trustees acknowledged they may have to consider another increase of around $5 per month, but they preferred waiting to see if that increase will actually be needed before levying it, since the loan amount is not finalized.

The monthly increases will also allow the village to build a small reserve for future equipment and repair. The board also approved going to bimonthly rather than quarterly billing when the water-system improvements are completed.

Payments approved
A payment of up to $26,780 was approved to Ingersoll’s employer, MSA Professional Services of Champaign. That figure represents the firm’s estimate to complete the design plans and permitting process for water-system improvements, along with assisting the village with loan documentation.

The firm’s preliminary work should be completed by September and will be accounted for in monthly statements.

Ingersoll said the timeline should align with the loan receipt, and professional fees can be repaid from that. The village has already paid the firm $10,000 for work to date.

In addition to approving regular monthly bills, the board voted to donate $100 to the GCMS Area Community Chest, as it has done previously.

Maintenance report
Merlin Tjarks reported that he has located and repaired or replaced several broken water lines likely caused by the recent extreme cold. However, Tjarks said he feels that water flow indicates there is at least one more to be found.

Upon Tjarks’ request, trustees suggested other possible locations for him to investigate.

March agenda items
At its next meeting, the board expects to hear from representatives of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and the Illinois Rural Water Association (IRWA). The village’s water system operator, Beth Meyer, said she feels both organizations can assist the village in various way at low or no cost.

Meyer also recommended participating in the IRWA’s conference in February to begin the process for Tjarks to become fully trained in taking water samples and monitoring chemical treatment.
 

Location (3):Local, Ford County, Sibley

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