May 7, 2009

Commission to Revisit County Health Ordinance at May 7th Meeting

Thirty individuals packed the Scotland County Commission office on April 29th for further discussions involving the county’s former health ordinance relating to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The Scotland County Commission voted 3-0 not to reinstate the health ordinance at its April 15th meeting.

The capacity crowd in attendance at the latest meeting gathered to ask the commission to reconsider this decision, pushing for a public hearing to debate the pros and cons of more stringent guidelines for hog operations than are currently in place under state law and Department of Natural resources enforcement.

Gigi Wahba of the Scotland County Concerned Citizens opened the meeting with a prepared statement.

“I want to acknowledge that on this issue of the risks of developing a CAFO industry in this county, we are not in full agreement,” she said. “This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other equally important issues for which you Commissioners do have our full support. You have a difficult job to do and cannot please all the people all the time. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to visit with you, Paul and Deny, today because we feel you, as the body representing this County, acted in haste in response to pressure from some of the livestock producers.”

A number of other members of the citizen group addressed the commission regarding its decision.

Garth Lloyd indicated the commission’s actions allowed the producers the opportunity to derail the ordinance simply by doing nothing at all.

Commissioner Paul Campbell apologized for what he called a bad choice of words, when he instructed the two sides to get together and work things out or else the ordinance was dead.

Lloyd expressed frustration with the fact that the citizens group had worked in great depth with the commission for more than five months attempting to craft a better health ordinance, only to have that entire process to go out the window in one emotion-packed night at the Lakeside producer meeting.

He reminded Commissioner Deny Clatt that he had campaigned on a platform that included a health ordinance and pointed out that all three commissioners appeared ready to enact the collaborative effort between the citizen’s group and the commissioners prior to the Lakeside meeting.

Clatt responded, stating he feels there needs to be a simple ordinance, noting he can see both sides of the fence on the issue. He added that the Lakeside meeting highlighted concerns regarding the health ordinance impacting dairy farms, which had not previously been considered.

A number of complaints were voiced regarding odor from existing CAFOs in the county as well as concerns regarding drainage and other possible pollution of water sources.

Rudy Wilson pointed out that Commissioner Campbell had stated the county “had got in a hurry” when it voted to repeal the health ordinance.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” Campbell said. Adding that the Commission should have gotten a group consisting of both sides together before the ordinance was thrown out and worked with what was already there. He admitted that he was tired of dealing with everything that was going on and he reacted instead of thinking.

Wahba admitted that the concerned citizen group was aiming high with this ordinance, but she is not convinced that those opposing the ordinance have read it. She asked that both sides sit together and go through all points of the ordinance with the Commissioners as arbitrators of the discussion, and then go to public hearings with both sides on board. She stated that they were not able to negotiate with the producers because they needed the leadership and authority of the Commission to work through the ordinance.

Chipper Harris suggested that the Commissioners need to reevaluate their position on this topic. He stated that there are some producers who are willing to work with an ordinance to a point, but he feels that the producers think they just have to say they do not want an ordinance and they do not have to worry about it. “Let’s get an ordinance in place,” he said.

Dave Koch suggested the Commission host a series of public meetings, to bring the producers and the concerned citizens together, with the idea that the former health ordinance would be re-enacted in 60 days if the groups could not come to some form of consensus.

Stan Hildebrand said the community is dividing against itself, and both groups have to find some way to come together.

Wahba said she thought Commissioners Campbell and Clatt thought this was a pretty good ordinance, and then they reverted. She said the Concerned Citizens were willing to negotiate and be reasonable, noting she felt this issue ultimately needs to be put to bed.

The Commission agreed to revisit the topic at the Thursday Commission meeting to begin at 9:00 a.m. The meeting likely will be moved to the circuit courtroom to allow for additional room for participants.

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