Local News

Gage County Examines Road Near Proposed Swine Operation

By Gordon Hopkins
A proposed swine operation in southern Gage County, near Liberty, is currently on hold as the county looks at the condition of the local road to determine if it can handle the additional traffic.
The Island Grove Summit Swine operation, proposed by Iowa-based Summit Pork, is a planned CFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) expected to hold an estimated 6,200 animals in section 25 of Island Grove Township, just north of Liberty and near the Gage-Pawnee County line.
While the operation would belong to Summit Pork, the animals would actually be provided by Fairbury-based Livingston Enterprises Inc. (LEI). The land belongs to Otto Farms, which would provide the land to build the facility and then use the liquid hog manure from the CAFO to be injected as fertilizer on farm ground.
The CAFO has garnered some opposition and one of the issues raised by opponents is the road. Many opponents believe the road cannot handle the increased traffic.
Dean Otto spoke at a meeting of the Gage County Supervisors on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, “The trees are over the road. They haven’t been graded. So the road seems narrower than it actually is. I’ve seen some of the stuff that’s been entered into evidence. One of them is a school bus letter and a township letter that road is not fit for semis, at least one more semi day. The other day, I was down there for a hour-and-a-half moving some dirt and there was three semis that went through there at that time in the middle of the afternoon. If this roads so bad, why are we letting other semis go down the road?”
Resolutions from both Island Grove township and the Village Board of Liberty opposing the permit were presented to P&Z.
The road is also a school bus route.
Otto then asked who is currently liable for the condition of Township Road 176, “And my question is, now that the schools said that road is not safe for a school bus, and the township says it’s not safe for semis, who is actually liable for all of this? And I think that’s something we’re all going to have to live with, if nothing gets done with this. It could be an accident someday. And it does not have to be a livestock semi. Could be a grain semi, could be an ambulance trying to get through there in a hurry. It’s pretty narrow. The West roads fairly bad. The North road is unbelievable. You can’t really get one pickup down it. The road’s wide enough but it’s overgrown with trees.”
“But I’d like to know who’s liable,” asked Otto. “The school bus could have a wreck this afternoon with a car going down that road and then who’s liable? Honestly, it’s probably whoever has the best attorney, is the one that gets away with it.”
The issue of a school bus traversing the road was brought up at a recent hearing of Gage County the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee. At the hearing, County Attorney Roger Harris suggested, “If we have to reroute those kids, then for their safety, we’ll have to do.”
This garnered immediate and angry outbursts from attendees. Harris responded, “ I just thought you guys said it was a safety issue. I’m trying to come up with solutions. For the moment, there’s a problem with the road, right? And the kids are number one, right? I mean, we all agree on that.”
Otto also expressed disappointment with the behavior of some attendees at that meeting.
“The conduct got way out of hand,” Otto told supervisors. “We don’t need name calling. I guess that’s not going to help them. It’s not going to help us. I’ve been in that spot before a month ago.”
Recently, Gage County Supervisors approved another swine operation, this one along South 82nd Road, between Pickrell and Adams.
In addition to the road, P&Z also wants to review the potential water contamination and consider a decommissioning plan. P&Z will meet again on September 26. Once P&Z finalizes their recommendations, the matter will go to a vote of the Gage County Board Supervisors.


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