Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Developer requests a new vote on dairy

The developer of a Hardin County dairy farm may get a second chance at $7 million in tax-exempt bond financing for the project.

Deve Dairy, L.L.C., has asked the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors to reconsider its July 28 decision not to sponsor tax-exempt bonds to finance the construction of waste lagoons and related treatment facilities at the 4,500-cow farm planned for south of Alger, Ohio, about 70 miles south of Toledo.

In an Aug. 18 letter conveying that request, Ad H. Nieuwenhuis, a Deve representative, wrote that in voting 11-1 against the project, port board members "interject[ed] their personal political and social views into the consideration of this economic development opportunity for the people of Hardin County."

The letter also complained that dairy representatives "were not afforded an opportunity to respond at the board meeting with factual information which would have rebutted - or at least provided pertinent factual information on - all of the claims made by the opponents to the financing."

During the July 28 meeting and at a hearing the day before, dairy critics said the large farm would generate massive volumes of manure that would be spread on nearby fields after only minimal treatment. If heavy rains followed that spreading, they said, nearby streams that eventually reach the Maumee, Scioto, or Sandusky rivers could quickly be contaminated.

No one from the dairy attended the hearing, and during the meeting dairy representatives spoke only early in the discussion. The dairy's letter said the port board's chairman, Thomas Palmer, ended discussion without giving dairy representatives time to speak again, but during the meeting those representatives offered no protest about the decision to close discussion.

In a letter forwarding Deve's request and supporting documents to port board members, port President James Hartung said that reconsideration can only occur if the board passes a motion to reconsider before minutes of the July 28 meeting are adopted. The minutes are on the agenda of the board's next meeting, set for 8 a.m. Thursday at One Maritime Plaza.

During the July 28 meeting, several board members voiced discomfort about having to vote on the project at that meeting, saying they desired more information about the farm's potential environmental consequences and more evidence of community support. But a motion to table the bond-issuance resolution deadlocked, 6-6, which put the question on the floor for a vote.

Port staff had told the board that action was needed during that meeting so an Aug. 17 closing date for the bond issue could be met. But on Friday, Jerry Arkebauer, the port authority's vice president for finance, said the dairy would be able to reschedule the bond closing before its state authorization for tax-exempt financing expires.

Two board members indicated Friday they would be willing to discuss the matter again.

"I will reconsider any decision where there are facts that were not presented before, especially in a situation like this where there has been a lot of debate," G. Opie Rollison said. "We acted on facts we had at the time, which may or may not be complete."

Board member Michael Frank said he would be tough to persuade to vote in favor of the project, because he has misgivings about the environmental consequences of large-scale "industrial" farming. He also said he was troubled by the whole process, because the board probably would not be allowed to reconsider had it voted in favor of the dairy only to learn later of discouraging facts.

"I don't know what new information they could provide to change my mind," Mr. Frank said. "But I'm willing to hear them."

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