Faribault Co. approves pipeline rules

BLUE EARTH – Faribault County Commissioners approved a pipeline ordinance Tuesday, bringing to a close a process that’s been more than two years in the making.

In early 2011, Buffalo Lake Energy proposed building a pipeline that would transport wastewater from the ethanol plant in Fairmont across the Martin/Faribault county line and directly into the Blue Earth River. Buffalo Lake had been discharging wastewater into a ditch near Fairmont that emptied into the Blue Earth River, but the permit to do so was scheduled to expire in mid-2011.

Faribault County residents objected, and in March 2011, Faribault County Commissioners approved a pipeline moratorium for a year.

Meanwhile, the board charged Michele Stindtman, program administrator for Faribault County Soil and Water, to study the impact of the water discharge on the river. By September 2011, the study was complete, and Stindtman and her team then began drafting an ordinance from scratch.

The moratorium was renewed in March 2012 and was set to run out this month. Stindtman said the county needed something on the books by March 14.

A public hearing on Feb. 12 “went really well,” Stindtman said, adding there was no public input as far as concerns.

The ordinance sets forth rules by which a pipeline would be permitted to discharge into protected waters, to assure the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Faribault County.

The only question raised by the board was in regards to the section on setbacks. Commissioner John Roper questioned the point that stated “Any pipeline must be 500 feet from existing dwellings.”

He wanted to know if “dwellings” meant houses where people lived. He wanted it 500 feet from houses, but said it could be closer to hog barns and other similar structures.

County Attorney Troy Timmerman read from the county ordinance for clarification.

“A building or portion thereof designed exclusively for residential occupancy,” he read.

Roper proposed an amendment to add “residential” to “dwellings” and the board approved the amendment.

The board then approved the ordinance.

In other business, the board approved the retirement of Geary Wells, jail administrator. Wells began working for the county on March 1, 1988. His retirement is effective July 19, 2013.

Brenda Ripley of Central Services requested the board allow her to advertise in-house for Wells’ replacement, and the board approved.

The board then returned to an old subject regarding stray dogs and cats that was brought on by two recent incidents.

In December, a Blue Earth City Council meeting was the site of a confrontation between city officials and the Faribault County Humane Society over whether a dog under investigation for killing domesticated rabbits was adopted. Then in February, Winnebago City Council objected to a two-year bill from the Faribault County Humane Society for more than $2,000 to house stray animals indefinitely.

The topic has also been brought up at commissioners’ meetings recently. It was decided a committee of officials, law enforcement and Humane Society representatives would meet.

Roper gave an update o that meeting: The way the situation is being handled right now is not very uniform, and conflicting billing practices are a problem, he said. Inconsistent paperwork is leaving in doubt where the animal was actually picked up and if a city or the county should be billed for its upkeep. The entities are discussing different ways to improve it.

The shelter can hold only four dogs and six cats, Roper said, adding the Humane Society only has two people to work in the shelter.

Options include the cities taking back responsibility for running their own shelters, he said. The committee also wants county-wide tagging and for owners to take more responsibility, including paying more of the cost when an animal is housed in the shelter.

Worst-case scenario is the county converts a building into an animal shelter, Roper said.

“I don’t want the county running the facility,” said Commissioner Tom Loveall, “but we have to do what we’re responsible for.”