A crowd at the Wednesday, Nov. 6, Edgar County Board meeting wanted to make sure their voices are heard regarding a proposed confined hog operation in Brouilletts Creek Township on 1800th Road.
At least three people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and all had concerns about the hog operation. Under Illinois law, the Department of Agriculture is the authority for granting the permits. The county board cannot stop the development although it can request the Department of Agriculture to hold a public hearing on the matter.
“It is my understanding the board intends to request that (a public hearing),” said Jill Mattingly. “The people are here to assure that happens. The citizens of this county are very concerned and want this out in the open.”
She added the citizens will also ask the board to follow the statute by issuing a non-binding advisory opinion to the Department of Agriculture regarding the hog farm.
“My focus is not anti-farm. I come from a farming family,” said Elaine Yaw, who expressed concern about what will happen to the water table for the people living in the vicinity when the proposed facility starts pumping water for an operation that has the capacity to house more than 4,000 animals.
Yaw is also worried about the pollution risk posed by the huge quantity of feces generated in such an operation.
Brouilletts Creek resident Kyra Taylor lives approximately one-mile from the proposed site. She said if the state approves the confinement operation she will not make planned improvements to her property.
“I’m concerned about the air quality and the ability to enjoy my property,” said Taylor. “This is not about being anti-farming. I grew up raising hogs. Big corporations are not always concerned about neighbors.”
Board chairman Jeff Voigt told the audience board members only learned about the filing by Parks Livestock shortly before it became publicly known.
Voigt then skipped over other agenda items to the issue of requesting a public hearing. The board unanimously approved the need for a hearing, and Edgar County Clerk and Recorder August Griffin was instructed to notify the Department of Agriculture by electronic notification and certified mail. Such a hearing must be held within 15 days.
The board also addressed some end of year issues and looked at a longer-term problem. The 2020 budget and accompanying levy request of $3.6 million was given first approval. Final approval comes during a special Nov. 27 meeting. The delay provides the public an opportunity to review the document.
A $36,000 transfer from the general fund to the courthouse improvement fund was authorized. This is a yearly action to build up a cash reserve for when the county takes over the bond payments for a 2012 restoration of the courthouse tower. The city of Paris agreed to pay the early years of the bond using downtown TIF district money.
Voigt acknowledged the county fell behind in making those transfers for a period of time jeopardizing the county’s ability to meet the obligation. He said the backlog of payments is about caught up so the fund will be solvent when the county assumes the payments.
The board also approved a motion on a split vote for the county clerk and the state’s attorney to draft a question for the 2017 primary ballot asking if voters will approve a safety tax. Voigt said this action only authorizes the creation of the question and is not a direction to place it on the ballot.
Prior board discussions have raised the issue of a safety tax, which is a sales tax similar to the school facilities tax voters approved in 2016. The maximum rate is 1 cent, although it could be less. The maximum rate will generate more than $1 million, which could go toward paying bonds for a new jail. The existing jail is closing Dec. 1 because insurance companies will no longer cover it as a penal institution.
“Given ou current circumstances it seems a prudent way to go, but there are other opinions out there,” said Voigt.
Board members approving the creation of a referendum question were Dan Bruner, Andy Patrick, Phil Ludington and Derrick Lorenzen. John Chittick voted no, and Karl Farnham Jr. was absent.