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Knox County’s Newest CAFO Still Up in the Air


By Crystal Howerton

Knox County Commissioners and area residents met in the Commissioner’s office on Friday morning, June 6, at 10 a.m. to discuss the location of a proposed CAFO northeast of Edina on Route AA.
The hearing had been set to determine the distance between the proposed 4850-head wean-to-finish hog facility and a residence owned by Ruth Hettinger and whether or not her son, WO1 Randall Hettinger resided there six months prior to being called to serve in Iraq.

However, Marvin Penn, applicant for the Class II CAFO, submitted a proposal for a new location during his opening comments. The new location is northwest of the original site and exceeds the half mile setback limit from Hettinger’s property, according to Soil Conservation Technician Don Kutcher. In addition, the new location is accessed by a private road, maintained by the Penn family.

In light of the new location, Mark Wasinger, of Hannibal, legal council for the Hettinger family, responded, “Penn’s new application may very well be in keeping with the ordinance, however I have not seen it prior to this moment, nor have the Hettinger’s had the opportunity to review it, to my knowledge. Therefore, I do not think that the commissioners can make a decision at this time.”

Presiding Commissioner L.P. (Pete) Mayfield explained to the group that upon approval of the permit submitted to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and in keeping with the setback distances lined out in the county health ordinance, more than likely the permit would be approved by the Knox County Commission, as well.

“Again, it may be that our dog is no longer in the fight if its within a suitable radius of the Hettinger’s property, but I would submit that if others feel they are adversely effected that they would have the right to undertake their own measurements,” explained Wasinger. “Then the Commission would be called upon to determine if these measurements are accurate in that regard. I don’t think that, with all due respect to the Penn’s, that the measurements that they have submitted necessarily have to be force fed to surrounding neighbors. The reason I say this is because I know that there are other neighbors in that area here today besides the Hettinger’s. While we may withdraw from the fight, there may be others here who are still affected.”

Although Mayfield strived to keep discussion limited to what was listed on the agenda, other issues were discussed including water and air quality and whether or not the Hettinger house was occupied.

“Given the change in location, the issue of whether or not someone lived in the Hettinger house is irrelevant,” said Attorney David Brown, “What we need to establish is whether the new site meets the setback requirements. That’s the long and short of it. If it does, they have the right to use the property as they choose.”
Commissioners agreed that a hearing would be scheduled regarding the new location on receipt of DNR’s approval.

“Our goal was to find a new location that would make neighboring residents happy, but I don’t think it make any difference,” said Penn. “I just want to able to stay in Knox County and make a living.”

“We were not prepared to defend our position as to whether or not the new location adversely affects us,” said Hettinger after the meeting, “however I think this issue has now expanded to include the entire neighborhood. I believe that we won’t be the only neighbors researching this new location.”