By Nancy McGill
The Thayer County Commissioners included a public hearing during their March 16 meeting to hear about Pawnee Ridge’s request to double its hog capacity.
The county’s zoning and planning department also held a public hearing March 9 on the proposed expansion.
Chairman Gary Miller said the permit request is to double the facility’s 1,750 animal units.
He said both public hearings drew about the same amount of county residents and the concerns were about the same, too – water and odor.
Eleven people, including Pawnee Ridge Owner Brett Wilke and Facility Manager Mark Miller, attended the hearing.
The commissioners posed questions to Wilke regarding water availability, composting and how mortalities are handled.
Wilke said another well may be needed, but he hasn’t further researched the project to know what will be required.
He said composting is part of the operation and mortalities are placed in bays to decompose, which transforms into reusable material.
On water, the facility uses approximately five million gallons per year. Doubling the capacity would most likely call for approval from the Natural Resource District to dig another well.
Odor was briefly discussed and two people in attendance said they had no issues with odor from the facility.
Wilke also addressed employment. He currently has nine employees and expects that number to increase.
Wilke said taxes on the facility are $26,000 per year. The facility is valued at over $2 million, and the investment will amount to $8 million once they are finished.
The commissioners asked if Wilke uses local companies for services. Wilke answered he has used local people for small projects, but will use a company out of Columbus that specializes in hog facilities to build.
Miller said the zoning and planning department will decide whether to recommend the facility to the county commissioners at its March 31 meeting in the courthouse.