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Proposed hog confinement near Collins attracts large crowd

The Collins Community Center was packed with community members from the Collins area, as well as other towns in Story County, who came to voice opinions about the proposed hog confinement south of Collins. Concerns expressed by those who chose to speak included impacts on the health of people living near the proposed operation, environmental impacts and whether or not Story County would see any benefits from the operation. Photo by Whitney Sager
The Collins Community Center was packed with community members from the Collins area, as well as other towns in Story County, who came to voice opinions about the proposed hog confinement south of Collins. Concerns expressed by those who chose to speak included impacts on the health of people living near the proposed operation, environmental impacts and whether or not Story County would see any benefits from the operation. Photo by Whitney Sager
More than two dozen people took turns voicing their opinions during a special board of supervisors meeting Monday night regarding the proposed hog confinement south of Collins. Out of all the community members who spoke, only two were in favor of the confinement operation. Photo by Whitney Sager
More than two dozen people took turns voicing their opinions during a special board of supervisors meeting Monday night regarding the proposed hog confinement south of Collins. Out of all the community members who spoke, only two were in favor of the confinement operation. Photo by Whitney Sager

More than 100 people packed the Collins Community Center Monday night to voice their thoughts about a proposed hog confinement facility.

The facility is planned for south of Collins on the east side of Highway 65 near the Story County and Jasper County lines. Kyle Mens of Maxwell has proposed the facility, which will house 2,480 hogs on site. Last year Mens proposed a site to be located near Hickory Grove Park, but later withdrew the proposal.

Monday night’s meeting was held after the Story County Board of Supervisors decided enough people had voiced concerns over the project and enough questions were raised regarding the proposed manure management plan during their regular meeting Tuesday, July 30, that they wanted to give the public a chance to comment during an evening meeting.

More than two dozen people stood and addressed the board and the gathered crowd with their concerns. Several community members voiced concerns about what kind of impacts the confinement would have on surrounding land, and how those impacts would affect their health. Marilyn Wilson of Collins was one of the people who expressed such concerns. She and her husband live south of the proposed site and are both in poor health. She said some of the people living in the area may not know of the potential negative impacts such a confinement could have on their daily lives.

“There are young families in the area who have moved from the city and are not knowledgeable about the hog confinement system,” Wilson said.

Elizabeth Jones of Collins also lives near the proposed site with her family. When she and her husband were looking for a place to live, they wanted to find somewhere with a sense of community.

“The sense of community is unbelievable,” Jones said of her rural neighborhood.

When her husband is gone, her neighbors check in on her and her young child to see if they need anything. She is concerned that if the hog confinement is approved, the sense of community would be lost because people will move to get away from the confinement and people will not want to move in because of it.

Another concern raised during the meeting was whether or not Story County would see any benefit from the proposed operation. Mike Mitchell of Collins, who lives approximately one-and-a-quarter mile from the proposed site, said he would rather see Mens “shed blood, sweat and tears” to make a farrow-to-finish operation work rather than watching him haul piglets in, ship grown pigs out and not see any of the money stay in Story County. He said he has nothing against family farms, but the type of farm Mens has proposed to build will not be a family farm.

“I feel families and homesteads are what bring people and taxes to our county, not a factory confinement farm,” Mitchell said.

Steve Birchmier of Maxwell was one of two community members who voiced support for the proposed operation. He asked if hog operations are not built in Iowa, how are people going to be fed? He believes that Mens has the freedom and the right to do what he wants to do.

Dave Struthers of Collins was the other person who spoke in favor of the proposed confinement. He said some of the concerns people had raised at the meeting regarding the negative impacts of the confinement should not really be something to cause worry. When it comes to the potential odors emitted from the facility, Struthers said the areas one quarter mile north and east of the proposed facility would be the biggest areas of concern for having to smell the odors because the winds in the summer often are from the south or southwest. However, no one currently lives in that area. During the winter, residents to the south of the facility would not smell any odors when the winds switch to the northwest, he said, because cold air does not cause manure to smell as much as warm summer air.

“I don’t believe it will be as detrimental as everyone thinks,” Struthers said.

The board of supervisors recorded the entire meeting Monday night and will submit the recording to the DNR, who has the final say in whether or not the confinement will be approved. Supervisor Paul Toot said the board of supervisors has no authority to either approve or disapprove the construction application of a proposed hog confinement facility – they have only made it a board policy to acknowledge the receipt of the manure management plans during their meetings. The board acknowledged the receipt of Mens’ manure management plan during their meeting Tuesday, Aug. 6.

The DNR requires that all new confinement facilities submit a manure management plan that shows where the facility will be located and where manure from the facility will be spread. Toot said as a matter of convenience, the DNR has made each county a drop-off point for these plans - Story County’s is the Environmental Health Department office. The board receives the plans after they are submitted to the Environmental Health Department.

As long as a proposed hog confinement has less than 2,500 hogs and meets all regulations set forth under state code, the DNR can do little to prevent the site from being opened. Local officials can only seek additional requirements if the site will have more than 2,500 hogs, thereby triggering the Master Matrix scoring system, which scores a proposed facility based on such things as distance from health facilities, water sources and odor filters.

At the end of the meeting Monday night, community members were encouraged to submit letters to state representatives and the DNR to further let their voices be heard.

Calls to a telephone number listed for Mens were not answered.

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