July 30, 2009

Voters to Decide Future of Health Ordinance, County Road Rock Tax on Tuesday

Yes or No, times two. That's all Scotland County voters will have to do on Tuesday, August 4th, simply say yes or no to a pair of ballot issues posed by Scotland County government.

The county has proposed a tax levy increase from $0.25 to up to $1.00 per acre on all agricultural real estate to fund the special road rock fund to be used solely for the purchase of road rock to be installed on county roads.

The current tax levy generates approximately $60,000 to $70,000 annually for the purchase of road rock. If approved, the new levy could add an estimated $180,000 of tax revenue earmarked specifically for additional gravel for county roads.

A yes vote on the proposal will allow the county commission to raise the road rock tax levy up to $1.00. A no vote will maintain the levy rate at $0.25.

The county also is seeking an advisory opinion from county voters on whether or not the county should have a health ordinance regulating concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Scotland County had such an ordinance from 2004 until 2008, when it was repealed by the commission. During that time frame eight hog CAFOs were constructed in Scotland County under the county permitting process.

The original county ordinance, known as Health Ordinance 04-01, was on the books for two years before the first CAFO operation moved to Scotland County and went through the permitting process. During the two public hearings for this facility, concerns were raised by neighboring landowners, however, the project was approved and constructed as proposed.

Also in 2006, several amendments to the Health Ordinance were made, the most significant being a change to the permit renewal time from every year to every five years. In 2007 and 2008, two other sets of amendments were enacted by Commissioners Mike Stephenson, Win Hill and Paul Campbell changing restrictions on the new CAFO facilities going through the permitting process.

Over the final two years of the ordinance, public hearings for new CAFO facilities saw the issue of the county health ordinance further divide the community to a point the commissioners stated they no longer felt that they could manage the conflicts, instead voting to repeal the ordinance.

Almost immediately, a citizens group formed of CAFO neighbors and other Scotland County residents called the Concerned Citizens of Scotland County. They objected to the lack of public input in the decision to repeal the ordinance and asserted the need for local control of CAFOs. This group met regularly with the County Commissioners for a six-month period, discussing the flaws of the old ordinance and drafting a new one.

At the Commission meeting on March 26th, the Commissioners set two dates for public hearings on a new ordinance, Health Ordinance 09-01. But later during that same meeting the hearings were canceled after opponents of a health ordinance voiced concerns that they were unaware such an ordinance was being considered and that no CAFO owners had been involved in the drafting of the proposed new health ordinance.

The commission directed the two sides to come together in an effort to reach a common ground for a new health ordinance. Unable to find such common ground, the Commissioners, on the legal advise of the Missouri Association of Commissioners, decided to put the issue of whether or not to reinstate a health ordinance up to the voting public on August 4th.

A yes vote will direct the county commissioners to reinstate a county health ordinance governing CAFOs while a no vote will direct the local officials not to enact such an ordinance.

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