BOWLING GREEN - State grants for improving roads around large-scale dairy farms are available, but Liberty Township trustees say they learned that too late.
Since the construction of the 690-head Manders Dairy at Range Line and Maplewood roads south of Weston, trustees have watched some township roads deteriorate at a rapid rate. They don't have the money to fix the roads, and it's too late to apply for an Ohio Small Cities Community Development Block Grant through the state development department.
"Since more [dairy farms] are coming to the county, we want you to be aware of this issue," Trustee Doug Kale told Wood County commissioners yesterday.
A 925-cow dairy proposed in Jackson Township received its operating permits from the agriculture department in August but has not yet started construction.
County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said commissioners have requested block-grant funding for improvements to Cygnet Road from the proposed dairy to State Rt. 235, but he's worried they may have acted too late.
"You submit the request for funding prior to them moving the first shovel of dirt to construct the place," Mr. Kalmar said.
He said commissioners learned about the grants only a month ago, when Commissioner Tim Brown heard a presentation about the program at a County Commissioners Association of Ohio committee meeting.
"They know they're behind the eight-ball," Mr. Kalmar said. "The Reyskens Dairy has their permits and could start moving dirt today."
Commissioners also are concerned about a requirement that says the commissioners and township trustees involved must express support for the new business. That becomes a sticky issue, Mr. Kalmar said, because not everyone agrees he wants another large dairy in the county.
Mike Hogan, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Development, said the grant program is intended to create and retain jobs by helping local governments pay for infrastructure improvements like roads and sewers. Because the grants are awarded through county commissioners, the state expects them to be supportive of the project, he said.
Of the 18 grants totaling $5.3 million that were awarded in the last fiscal year, Mr. Hogan said he did not believe any were related to the construction of a dairy farm.
In Liberty Township, Mr. Kale and fellow trustees David Adams and Rod Lucas said they have had good communication with the Manders brothers who run the dairy and they have no knowledge of any ecological damage from the operation, but the roads have taken a beating.
"It's the constant pounding," Mr. Kale said.
He said the milk trucks are not as destructive to the roads as are the tractors pulling tanks full of manure out of the dairy for application on nearby fields. Because the Manderses have applied to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to increase their animal capacity to 1,600, they expect the deterioration to escalate. "I've seen what happened with 699. I hate to see the 1,600 myself," Mr. Adams said.
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