A proposed compost facility will have to wait two weeks for an OK from the Hall County Board of Supervisors.
Following a two-hour, standing-room-only public hearing Tuesday morning, the board voted 4-1-1, with Supervisor Dick Hartman voting no and Supervisor Butch Hurst abstaining, to table a vote on a conditional-use permit for Smart Soil, LLC, a proposed compost facility. Supervisor Jane Richardson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Supervisor Ron Peterson, who made the motion, said he needs more time to digest information to made a decision.
“I would also like us to consider what conditions we would want to put on this conditional-use permit,” he said. “I also think it is important to have a full board to vote on this.”
The proposed compost facility would be located one mile north of Husker Highway and 190th Road on the west side of the road.
Andrew Woitaszewski, of Smart Soil, said he plans to “start small” with materials he knows he can handle, such as paunch material. He said his proposed compost facility would take organic waste material from local manufacturers and city waste. The most noticeable would be paunch material from JBS.
Paunch is the material left in the stomach and intestines of slaughtered livestock, like undigested corn, straw and silage.
“We want to work with the Elba landfill to process grind and incorporate paper waste and cardboard,” Woitaszewski said. “I have a gentleman here in Grand Island who wants to work with me on reusing his wood waste. He grinds wood chips and wants me to help him get rid of his wood chips he has piling up. There are a lot of businesses around here that could utilize this.”
Woitaszewski said his proposed compost facility would use an aerobic composting method where the compost material would be placed in windrows 10 feet wide and about four feet tall. He said the material would be turned constantly and the temperatures would be maintained to eliminate moisture.
This method would differ from the old method of anaerobic composition, with which the county has had issues in the past, Woitaszewski said, as the anaerobic method has the compost material looking nice on the outside, but is “gross, soggy and gooey” on the inside.
“That is because the bacteria that live in that anaerobic environment do not process material very well,” he said. “They do not heat up because there is no oxygen for them to survive.”
Woitaszewski said there are a number of compost facilities across the state, including a government compost facility in Stanton.
Supervisor Karen Bredthauer told The Independent during a break between the public hearing and the discussion on the conditional-use permit that she and Supervisor Pam Lancaster visited a similar compost facility in Stanton in April or May. She said during the meeting that there was not a noticeable smell from afar as she toured the facility.
Woitaszewski said he has a seven-year contract with JBS that entails nine loads a day. He said the compost has to meet certain moisture level requirements and cannot include material such as blood or animal guts. The trucks carrying the loads will go on Stuhr Road south to Highway 34, then west to Husker Highway and north on 190th Road to the location.
Jeff Seldon, manager of the Loup Central Landfill in Elba, spoke in favor of Smart Soil’s proposed project and subsequent conditional-use permit. He said his landfill, and other landfills in the area, benefit from a compost facility because it will be able to process cardboard and paper materials in-house to grind down into compost that Woitaszewski needs.
Selden said by keeping cardboard out of the landfills, it will prolong the life of the Elba landfill and other landfills across the area.
Megan Jackson, a program manager with the Nebraska Recycling Council, also spoke in favor of Smart Soil’s project.
“Successful composting operations are using the system that he (Woitaszewski) is proposing,” she said. “One of the most common are these windrow piles. There are many options, but this turning (of the compost) speeds up the decomposition process. He has a plan to achieve his key targets to make a system efficient. It is creating a very high, economically valuable end product. In doing that, you are managing the odor people are most concerned about.”
Despite having some support for his compost facility, most of those who spoke during the public hearing said they were opposed.
Kalvin Mead said he was opposed to the project. He wanted to know what is going into the compost, and who would work to ensure the compost is mixed correctly.
“The way it is now, due to lack of information or lack of notification, I am opposed to it because I really do not have the information that I would like to have,” he said. “I am concerned about the flies … and I am also worried about the roads. Husker Highway is already getting tore up from the landfill alone. 190th Road goes away every time it rains or we have harvest. Any low spot in the road is gone.”
Matt McGeorge said he lives two miles east of the proposed compost facility site and feels the project is “out of convenience for JBS and the Woitaszewskis.”
“I think it is a good plan, but it should be somewhere else, not in people’s yards,” he said.
Diann Mulbach said she lives 3,400 feet from the proposed site of the compost facility and is also concerned about it.
“I know he (Woitaszewski) talked about smell, and I am used to that, but I heard nothing about flies,” she said. “I know that has been an issue in the past. With the runoff, I understand there is a pond, but if there is any runoff, where is that runoff going to go? It has been grass for as long as we have lived out there.”
Supervisor Dick Hartman said he represents 99% of the people who spoke at the public hearing, and was opposed to Woitaszewski’s compost facility proposal.
“I guarantee you one thing: this ain’t my first rodeo. I have been around a paunch for 25 years and it stinks. You can never tell me that manure don’t stink because it does,” Hartman said. “Nobody deserves this thing. We have a room full of people that don’t want it. Are we going to vote against that?”
Hartman made a motion to deny Woitaszewski’s request and “deny a (conditional-use) permit from now on” in Hall County, but his motion died due to lack of a second.
Bredthauer asked what her duty is as a county supervisor if a resident calls and says that Woitaszewski is not abiding by the rules set forth in his conditional-use permit if it is approved.
“I can call up DEE in Lincoln and I can ask them to come out and do a site inspection,” she said.
Travis Hazard, a project engineer with Settje Agri-Services and Engineering in Greenwood, said it typically takes the DEE “a day or two” to come out to do an inspection once a complaint is received.
Woitaszewski told The Independent in an interview following the public hearing that if his permit is approved by the county board in two weeks, paperwork will be turned into the DEE who will study it before approving it. He said construction will then start and is expected to last around 30 days. The goal is for the compost facility to be open in late November.