Letter: Public BZA hearing should decide on CAFOs

From: Rick Hand

Hope

I just read the April 12 article pertaining to the Gelfius expansion and can’t help but scratch my head in bewilderment. If the county government is just going to push through expansions without a BZA hearing, why was there a two-year CAFO study committee?

The majority report agreed the public BZA hearings are crucial. If I want to put a kennel on my property, I am required to stand before the BZA, but Gelfius is permitted to give private tours to individual BZA members and Jeff Bergman to seek approval for expansion.

If this was not such a serious matter I could almost laugh at the statement from Kristen Whittington,”It takes six little ones to equal the amount of manure produced by one full-size hog.” If you put thousands of little ones together it will equal one big stink. Again, the odor is obnoxious, but the odor serves as a warning to our communities about the toxic waste being released into the water, air and soil.

I think it is important to note that at the time Gelfius hosted an open house he had already planned on doubling his herd. If the open house was to be used as a vehicle to instill trust, I would have to think his lack of transparency concerning an expansion could also qualify as a vehicle to instill suspicion. Gelfius should be questioned as to why he withheld this information. Why not address this expansion during an open house? This would’ve been the perfect opportunity to be forthcoming to public. Because he chose not to disclose this expansion to the public then he should at least follow the ordinances and appear before the BZA. The Republic reported Jeff Bergman to say the final inspection, scheduled by Kristin Whittington, will provide us (BZA members and Jeff Bergman) with opportunity to talk about any changes they’ve made and we’ll do whatever is appropriate. A BZA public hearing was not even mentioned in this article, however the ordinance requires it.

Once again this is prime example why the voters in Bartholomew county need to pay attention to who our county commissioners are and how they seem to lean favorable in a certain direction. Rick Flohr apparently thinks just a little manure doesn’t matter. How about we ship that extra manure to his backyard, would that matter? The bottom line is there were new ordinances put in place just a few years ago and once again the commissioners are trying to bend them.

There should be no private tour of the operation to help make a decision that will impact all of Bartholomew County. Never should just a handful of people be allowed to make this monumental decision. Bartholomew County should enforce county ordinances. Call your county commissioners and insist on a public BZA hearing for the Gelfuis expansion. Insist they follow their own ordinances. Insist on equal treatment for all citizens of Bartholomew County.

The Bartholomew County Commissioners can be reached at 812-379-1515 or commissioners@bartholomew.in.gov.