More than 60 community members met late Thursday night at the Paint Township Trustees meeting in Bloomingburg for a passionate discussion about the proposed hog facility for Jones Road.
Those in attendance who were not able to have a chair stood along the walls as the conversation around the hog facility went on for over an hour.
Dan Drake, Fayette County Assistant Prosecutor and a resident who would be living near the proposed hog facility, presented a resolution to the Paint Township Trustees. The resolution asked the trustees to oppose the construction and operation of a 2,400-head hog facility on Jones Road.
Last week the Madison Township Board of Trustees approved a resolution opposing the proposed hog facility for Jones Road and urged David Daniels, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director, to use his authority to require permitting for the facility.
Drake said a letter was sent to Daniels asking him to exercise his authority for the facility, if it goes in, to be subjected to ODA permitting requirements because the proposed facility’s number of hogs at 2,400-head would fall under ODA’s requirements to need a permit.
The contract for the proposed hog facility is still under negotiation and nothing has been finalized, said John Surber, of Premier Solutions in Clinton County, during Thursday’s meeting.
Surber said the plan has changed for the facility proposed for the Jones Road location. The proposed facility would now be utilized as a wean-to-finish or growing facility and not as a sow farrowing facility, as was previously discussed. Surber said the decision was made after talks with Duane Mathews indicated it would be the better option for both Surber’s business needs and Mathews’ fertilizer needs.
Mathews owns the land on Jones Road where the proposed hog facility would be located. Surber said he and Mathews discussed a plan where Mathews would lease 20 acres on Jones Road for the new hog facility. Mathews would use the manure produced at the facility as fertilizer on his crops in the land around the location.
Concerned residents say the location on Jones Road is not the best place for a hog facility due to environmental concerns – including flooding of that area of land – odor, manure and rodent control, and its close proximity to the resident homes in the area.
Drake presented photographs to the trustees that showed the area along Jones Road has flooded in the past and said that the soil is inhospitable for absorption of the manure nutrients that would be applied to the land from the facility.
Surber said best management practices are always used with concern to handling the manure.
Residents opposing the construction of the facility say it would depreciate the value of their properties and homes.
Surber tried to put those concerned residents at ease and said the property values of homes near his other hog facilities have increased over the years rather than decreased.
Drake said that once the hog facility is in place, it’s going to be there forever, and that the value of homes close to it will depreciate.
“We’re not anti-animal. We’re not anti-agriculture. We’re not environmental wackos,” said Drake, who said he represents farmers in his professional practice in six counties across Ohio. “We’re sorry that farmers think residences should be ignored with respect to livestock facilities.”
Linda and Roger LeBeau and their daughter, Amy J, were present at the meeting and have voiced concern of the risk of putting in a hog facility within a half-mile proximity to their residence because of Amy J’s compromised immune system. Amy J has spinal muscular atrophy and utilizes machine-assisted breathing technology. Linda said she hopes the Surbers won’t build the facility in that location and will go someplace else.
“With your barn in place, the gases that would be emitted will take her life,” said Amy J’s mother, Linda. “I’m hoping and praying to my savior that you have a heart and let us keep her.”
Linda asked Connie Surber, John Surber’s wife, if any of her children have a weakened immune system. Connie said she used to have sinus issues, but has very little sinus issues today.
“If the air isn’t good for us, it isn’t good for the pigs. We want the best for our families and for pigs,” said Connie.
In a statement Friday, Connie Surber said she felt they were threatened during Thursday night’s meeting.
“I felt last night…we were threatened. They told us if she died it was our fault. That’s a threat. That was unfair,” said Connie.
Roger LeBeau quoted Mathews’ previous interview with the Record-Herald during the meeting.
“He said he knows Amy J, saying, ‘She doesn’t come outside, she gets all she needs inside.’ Like if there was any smell that would bother her or anything negative, she didn’t go outside anymore. I’m going to refrain from saying what I really think, but I think that was as cold a statement a man could make,” said LeBeau, his voice cracking through with anger and tears, “about this wonderful woman.”
Dal Craig-Crawford, who said she would live within about 1,500 feet to the proposed hog facility, said, “Mathews has not shown one ounce of sadness, or ‘Gee, I’m sorry about this,’ it’s all about what he can make, what kind of savings he’s going to have on his fertilizer bill, it’s nothing about the people around here, around where this is going to be…this is just a very upsetting situation…if the walls could talk we would learn a lot wouldn’t we?”
Since 2001, the Surber family has operated hog facilities in Clinton County. John Surber said he has never before faced this much opposition from anyone when he has gone into planning or building a hog facility, although there have been concerns raised in the past.
“It’s the fear of the unknown. Fear is a terrible thing,” he said in a statement Friday.
The Paint Township Trustees said they would postpone making a decision on the proposed resolution and would call a special meeting in the future to announce their decision.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton