Monday, February 24, 2014

Heavy Hauling – Progress for Kewaunee County

Attention all haulers, farmers, big and small throughout Kewaunee county.  A plan for heavy hauling is being developed in Kewaunee County that has great potential for success.  The Kewaunee County Committee for Heavy Traffic (KCCHT) met last Thursday evening to discuss the ramifications of Assembly Bill 648 relating to the operation of agricultural vehicles (husbandry) on highways and providing penalties for non-compliance.
The KCCHT committee is chaired by Brian Paphlam and has members from the public sector, large farms, small farms and independent haulers.  This group has made terrific headway in the past two years with regard to assisting the State in developing new standards for the operation of implements of husbandry on the roads of the Wisconsin.

For years, the lament of townships has been that they have no control over how much weight is being hauled on their town roads.  AB 648 deals with that issue and more than likely will pass through both the Assembly and Senate in April 2014.  Assuming it does pass, the Governor would sign this legislation into law in late April and this new law governing the size and weight of husbandry implements operating on our roadways would then go into effect.

AB 648 will change many size, length, width and weight limitations for husbandry equipment. There are many changes and it is not possible to list them in this article.  If you’d like some challenging reading, go to: 

For Kewaunee County, the most notable changes are that road and bridge weight limits can now be set by each township as to the weight (within reason) any given road will accommodate.  Also, now all haulers will be required to obtain a no-fee permit from each township for hauling in, or through, those townships.  
What was impressive in this KCCHT Committee meeting, is the cooperation and idea sharing that occurred between all the parties, CAFOs, Smaller Farm operators, Public Sector, University Extension Personnel (Erica Bjurstrom, Kewaunee County and Cheryl Skjolaas, Madison), Independent Contract Haulers, Towns Officials and Sheriff’s Department.  The overall planning and implementation of this new law (assuming it passes) on a local level will be a bit tedious but this group came up with a very workable plan.

The basic premise for operation will be, first to have all the Towns in for a meeting to explain the process and procedures.  Following that meeting (assuming all the towns buy in), will be to have the towns leadership color code their roads and bridges.  A color code will be established for various weight limits and then each road would be coded according to the weight it would bear.  Once that is completed, those maps would be distributed to the haulers.  The haulers would then calculate their routes and apply for permits from each township on their planned hauling routes.  This part of the implementation will require good communication and cooperation between the Townships and haulers.

This whole process has taken over two years to develop and Cheryl Skjolaas from the University Extension group in Madison complimented the KCCHT for being one of the leading groups in the State for cooperating and developing the procedures being implemented.  I recall a meeting a couple of years ago when this process began and it was a bit rocky at that time.  We’ve come a long way on this issue.

I am glad I attended this meeting, it gives me hope that when various groups from the community get together and have respectful conversation and brain-storming good things can come from it.  Let’s continue to work together to make Kewaunee County a better place to live!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Let's Work Together

By Ron Heuer, District 12 Supervisor
On Wednesday evening Feb 12, I, along with a contingent of concerned Kewaunee County residents, spent several hours either providing testimony or observing testimony with regard to the DNR permitting the expansion of the Kinnard operation.  This expansion included a 70M gallon manure storage facility at the Kinnard Farm in Lincoln Township.  Five Kewaunee County residents and Midwest Environment Advocates (a Madison based environmental law firm) are contesting the DNR approval of this expansion without assuring the farm’s manure management plan would meet state water quality standards.  As an observer, I can honestly say I learned a lot about the entire issue.
I have empathy for those people who testified as to their personal experiences with degradation of their water source and how that, in some cases, has directly impacted their quality of life.  I equally have empathy for the Kinnard farming operation who have worked long and hard to build their farm and have followed the procedures the DNR has set and now have to spend their hard earned money to defend themselves and their business.
In addition to the sworn testimony of the petitioners, about 18 Kewaunee residents provided sworn testimony in support of those petitioners.  Their testimony was heartfelt and as I listened to all the testimony I experienced a range of emotions to include empathy, concern, outrage, sadness, dismay and, yes, hope.  
Empathy.  How can you not empathize with someone who, as a result of their water source being polluted with coliform, e-coli and nitrates can no longer brush their teeth with water from their own well?  At the same time, how can you not have empathy for the Kinnards as they have suffered through personal attacks and character assassination because they operate a CAFO.  This is where I disconnect with the logic of some of the testimony, here are a couple of examples why. 
A dairy farm is determined to be a CAFO when they have 700 head of milking and dry cows.  And as a CAFO, operates under the rules set by the State DNR and EPA.  They must follow the guidelines set by the DNR when it comes to applying manure to fields and cannot, for example, apply any manure to a field from January 1 through the end of March.  Meantime, you have many farms in this county of various size that are not CAFOs and they haul manure daily throughout the winter and spread manure on the snow that is sitting on frozen ground.  It is logical that when this snow melts (and it will melt before the ground is unfrozen), it will run off into the creeks and rivers and make its way to the lake and other areas it shouldn’t be.  I only cite this one example, because a cow is a cow and all those cows produce manure and manure is manure.
Some would have you believe that organic farming is the “right type” of farming for Kewaunee County.  However, what they don’t mention is there are organic designated farmers in Kewaunee County that apply manure as a fertilizer to their fields from the same large CAFOs.  Once again, manure is manure.
Even though the Kinnards farm is in Lincoln Township, it is not just Kinnard Farm manure on the Township fields.  Manure travels, various farmers, big and small, haul their manure from township to township wherever they own or lease land.  Manure is manure.
We all understand Wisconsin relies heavily on agriculture, and Kewaunee County is more dependent upon agriculture than many counties.  Mr. Luft, a former Paper and Plastics Industry executive provided testimony that was very logical.  He knows first-hand how stringent the EPA and DNR can be when they have a mind to be.  He cited a well-documented incident in Kewaunee County where the EPA levied a fine against an ag-business and virtually, during the same time period, the DNR issued an expansion permit for the same operation.  To me, this is part of the problem of government being so big, no one knows what is going on and then the system fails us.  Us, includes all the residents of Kewaunee County including owners and operators of all farm sizes.
To me, there is thinking in our country today that condemns hard work and success.  We should all be grateful for folks like El-Na Farms, Eberts, Pagels, Dairy Dreams, Kinnards and many other farmers in our area who are trying to make a living and pursuing the American Dream while putting food on America’s table.
Mr. John Rybski, a very articulate Ahnapee Township man who provided personal testimony summed it up better than anyone else when he said, “We need to change this together”.                       


Character assassinations and personal attacks won’t do anything but further divide the residents of our County.  Although the DNR has the final say today, that should not deter us from having heartfelt dialogue with each other to see what things CAFOs, large farmers, small farmers and the balance of the residents can do to make our County a better, safer place to live.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Houston, We Have a Problem Here!

by Ron Heuer, District 12, Supervisor
Schedule II employee salary increases.  This is absolutely a mess and one more time the taxpayers took it on the chin. The reason it is a mess, is, our county does not have a viable employee performance evaluation system in place. Salary increases for the Schedule II employees are simply justified by the Personnel Advisory Committee with little input from any source.

I sat at the table as this committee met (twice) and it was a matter of pulling numbers out of the sky.  For example, Mr. Dorner walked into the meeting with recommendations for five employees to be increased.  In a matter of minutes the list grew to nine employees, and then almost as an afterthought, Mr. Barlow suggested adding an additional $1,000 for the Corporate Counsel.  No justification other than that employee hadn’t had an increase for a while.  The following Board members are on this committee: Weidner, Barlow, Hutter, Wagner, Paphlam, Shillin, Sinkula Heidmann and Mayer.  Shillin and Sinkula were the only two members that voted against these increases.  At the December Board meeting, I made a mistake.  As in that meeting because when I presented a motion to table these increases until the January board meeting, I assumed the Personnel Committee would revisit the proposed raises and take action on them before presenting them to the board again in January.  I gave them way too much credit!  I forgot I was dealing with the government where common sense does not prevail.  However, following the December meeting I did send a letter to each of the board members with details of this salary increase in hopes they would take this issue up with members of the Personnel Committee.  Guess what?  With exception of two board members, nothing, nix, nada, zero, zip, was done with this information.  The do-nothing board one more time lived up to its reputation and delivered to the taxpayer another unjustifiable salary expense. The motion was brought up again in the January meeting and I again offered a motion to send it back to committee to have them do their homework and that motion was defeated.  The December Motion that was tabled was brought up and that passed; the following people voted against these salary increases Larry Kirchman, Ron Heuer, Dennis Cravillion, Linda Sinkula, Donald Delebreau, and Kaye Shillin. The rest of our voted for the mostly unwarranted raises.
Have you heard the Kewaunee County Highway Commissioner is retiring?  Commissioner Dale Jandrin announced his retirement to the full Board at the October Board meeting.   Not so fast! Now, at the County Highway Committee of Jan 21, it came out that Mr. Jandrin is lobbying with the County Administrator Mr. Dorner to resign (not retire) from the position as Commissioner and would come back into the Kewaunee County Highway Department as a hourly wage employee. 

This is a bad idea for the following reasons:  An employee who holds what would be considered a Director level position (Commissioner) has forged relationships with their staff; there are loyalties to consider.  Normally that Director knows the operation very well and forgets he is no longer the boss.  This causes conflict with the staff.  What about those employees that were disciplined by the resigning Director who now is working daily with the person who handled their disciplinary actions. Will or would this perhaps cause dissention within the workforce?  Also, the new Director just coming into the organization has to deal with the likelihood of being undermined by the previous Director both with the office staff and those employees with loyalties to the previous Director.
Are we setting yet another precedence with this kind of appointment? Should this be left up to the Administrator to make this kind of “deal” for an employee? Should this not be a decision made by the board? Let your District Supervisor hear your position on this. Call the Administrator and let him know your thoughts. Mr. Dorner has not yet made a final decision about this.
Twenty-two months ago at the second board meeting I attended I correctly observed that the only way we could change things in this County would be to change out some of these board members who are not adequately representing the taxpayers of this county.  We now have, for the first time since 2000 a good number of qualified, concerned citizens who are running for the County Board. 
Now it’s up to you!  Notify friends, relatives, in-laws, outlaws, neighbors, and all those who are registered to vote.  Make them aware how important it is they vote in this election.  Encourage those who are not registered to vote to get themselves registered and to participate in this important election.  If you want further details or be part of my newsletter recipients email me at: