Franklin County needs more time to add conditions to a special use permit on a proposed grain bunker for the Ottawa Coop.

The Board of Franklin County Commissioners Wednesday directed county staff to look into adding stipulations to the special use permit for dust control, possible alternate routes in and out of the bunker site, removing of spoiled grain and noise control.

The Ottawa Coop, 302 N. Main St., Ottawa, is applying for a special use permit to allow the placement of two 150-foot by 400-foot ground bunkers to store 1.2 million bushels of the corn at the intersection of Reno and Texas roads, near LeLoup. The location is zoned as an A-1 (agricultural) district.

“If you want to add conditions, I am not sure I would ask you not to make any motion [Wednesday] because Larry [Walrod] and I are not going to chicken scratch things on this resolution and get it in front of you now,” Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, told the commissioners. “If you are not going to approve this piece of paper, we need to know what you want in here so we can add that and bring it back to you. I understand [the Coop] wants to put this facility in play and start using it. We are all in a better spot — the board of commissioners, the Coop, the landowners — if we take our time and we do this right. I don’t know how many houses are on the alternate route. I don’t know the load capacity on the bridges of the alternate route might be. We need time to vet some of these things. I need to work with [the Coop’s] attorney to decide if it’s even agreeable to them to do some of this.”

Commissioner Randy Renoud said other counties stipulate dust control in some of their special use permits.

“The main thing I see coming up is the dust control,” Rick Howard, commissioner, said. “I understand your concerns. I talked to Mr. [Jim] Haag about the roads and how he felt we could handle the roads and keep them maintained. He advised we have maintained others with heavier truck use than this one. As far as the [Texas Road] bridge, if it is being used by overweight trucks, we need to look at getting the sheriff department a scale so they can enforce that. That is not the Coop’s responsibility.”

Clark Wenger, Coop general manager, said the Coop attempted to find other suitable sites closer to hard-surfaced roads.

“We looked at a couple other sites around there that were available for sale,” he said. “None of them matched what we needed to do. We need a scale and grading equipment. We already had an existing facility there. That facility made the most sense to put something together before this corn harvest. Time was a big consideration.”

Ted Stoneking, who lives in the 4000 block of Reno Road near the site, said the Coop selected this site because of convenience. He said the location is more than a mile from hard-surface roads.

Economic impact

Blaine Finch, Coop’s attorney, said agriculture is the largest industry in the county.

“We have more than 350,000 acres in production at one time or another,” he said. “Agriculture is essential to Franklin County.”

Finch said local crops have been so successful in the past couple of years that the Coop grain storage bins are overloaded.

“We ended up with a 2-million bushel surplus in the Ottawa Coop trade area,” Finch said. “That is 2 million more than we can store. That is why the Coop has asked for storage facilities in both Burlingame on the western end of their service area and LeLoup on the eastern end of their service area, so they can accommodate the success our farmers are having.”

He said the excess has been stored in Edgerton.

“Instead of Franklin County grain earning Franklin County profits, we are paying a tax to Johnson County to store our grain,” Finch said. “The economics are simple: allowing the construction of this bunker, allowing this special use permit, will allow us to keep Franklin County grain stored and sold out of Franklin County instead of being stored and sold in Johnson County. Ultimately that means more money in Franklin County taxpayers’ pockets.”

Wenger said what he proposes to build is a temporary structure, but can be used for several years. He said the bunker is an open structure with a tarp covering the corn.

“The main noise with the bunker would be the fans that hold the tarp down,” Wenger said. “They would only be running when the grain was full and tarped down.”

Finch said this site has been used by the Coop for grain storage since 1987 when it refurbished two oil tankers, which are used to store corn and soybeans.

“This property has been used for storage and sale for years,” he said. “This is not a new use. It is an expansion of that use.”

Health, safety concerns

Stoneking, who was the spokesman for the families near the site, said there are no provisions in the special use permit for the health of the landowners near the site.

“It contains no listing of conditions to ensure the utility and value of adjacent property and the protection of public health, safety and general welfare,” he said. “The members of the group have made complaints to the county’s public works, sheriff’s department and the Ottawa Coop regarding the concerns of safety due to the high volume of trucks traveling the roads to and from the Coop’s facility, creating enormous amounts of dust, restricting visibility for all motorists and traveling over bridges that are not designed for the weight of those trucks. The health and safety issues with the proposed facility and existing facility should be the greatest priority in evaluation of this special use permit.”

He said the safety of motorists also should be considered.

“Emergency service providers, school buses, mail carriers, county [residents] and visitors all travel these roads with their safety being jeopardized by the hazardous conditions provided by volume of heavy trucks, which are traveling too fast for the conditions,” Stoneking said. “Now the Coop in requesting this special use permit, wants to double and eventually triple the amount of heavy trucks going to and from the proposed facility.”

Another concern of the homeowners is how the facility will effect property values, Stoneking said.

“How can this not impact property values?” he said. “Would you want to stare at this facility from your front yard? Mrs. [Shirley] Johnson will step out into her front yard, and instead of being able to watch the sunset over the horizon that by the grace of God she has been able to do for 37 years, will see a grain bunker mounted with grain only several hundred feet from her front porch.

“The highest priority is the health and safety for all.”