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After deadline: When folks fight, I get tough and listen

August 24, 2018

I may not look tough, but I am.

No, really!

Despite my marshmallow physique, my inability to run more than 43 feet (only if a bear is chasing me) without sucking wind, and the fact I occasionally go to sleep feeling fine then wake up with a pulled muscle, I’m tough.

How, you ask?

Well, my keyboard (keyboards, actually – there’s the little Apple one at work and my laptop with its sensitive trackpad that constantly moves my cursor when I don’t want it to move) and I are constantly fighting the good fight. Think the 21st century version of “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

Well, we’re reporting on the good fight, which is roughly the same thing. I mean, I don’t pick sides in the stories I cover, so “fight” sounds a little extreme.

Maybe I’m not so tough after all.

This land is my land

Daniel Ware, however, is tough.

Look, I don’t know if the city of Stewartville should run a road through his acre of land or not. I don’t live in Stewartville, and that’s not my decision.

But I know Ware deserves to be listened to. Ware, 80-plus and still kicking, lives on a long, thin acre of land in Stewartville. His grandfather owned the land originally, and built a house just a stone’s throw from where Ware’s own home stands.

That home, built by his father, is where Ware grew up. The 66-by-660-foot plot of land has his house on one end and his gardens on the other.

The city wants to connect two dead ends of Fourth Avenue Southeast by running the road through the middle of Ware’s property, essentially cutting his property in two.

Now, the city has some good reasons for wanting to connect the dead ends. But if you spend an hour with Ware, which I did last week, listening to him tell you when his mother planted a garden here, what he grew in his Victory Garden there, and how old each towering tree on the property is, it’s hard not to sympathize.

Also, any time someone mentions eminent domain, which the city has, my personal bar for clearance on the issue doubles.

We’re a long way from that, and the city might not decide to go down that road (ha!) after all, but I was happy to report on the fight.

What do you smell?

I often find myself in the middle of the fight over hog farms and neighbors. The biggest, of course, is the group fighting all things Circle K Family Farms in Goodhue County.

Well, it turns out there’s another hog farm that’s caught a disapproving whiff from its neighbors. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency tested the hydrogen sulfide emission levels of the hog farm owned by Sam Gadient, located about five miles west northwest of Goodhue and found ...

Nothing of importance. Well, unless you’re Gadient and you want to boast about how well run your hog farm is.

The cutoff for a violation sits at two readings within a week above 30 parts per billion averaged over 30 minutes. Heck, the state Department of Health’s recommended maximum level of hydrogen sulfide, an entirely different (and unenforceable) standard, is no more than 7 ppb.

Gadient’s highest reading during a solid week of testing: 4 ppb for a 30-minute average. In fact, only seven half-hours registered a number above zero.

The whole question, opponents of large hog farms have said, is the air modeling doesn’t accurately represent the amount of hydrogen sulfide odor and exposure under which they suffer living near one of these hog facilities.

Well, if the testing at Gadient’s farm and those readings taken at two Circle K facilities last month are any indication, the opponents are right, but not in the way they expected. The readings, taken with the newest equipment on the market, show those hog farms are giving off far less of the noxious gas than anyone suspected.

And that’s good news for those of us who like air that meets state standards.

No fighting

Thankfully, no one is fighting the fine ladies in Elba who are trying to raise funds to build a playground and veterans memorial in town.

The biggest fight, said Elba City Council Member Andrea Kieffer, who is part of the group working to raise money on the project, came when the group started the process to get a playground built and someone came along and said, “How about a veterans memorial?” and the committee and the city said, “Why not both?”

Those might not be exact quotes, so don’t point and yell “fake news” at me. But I think I’ve caught the gist of it.

And that, folks, is how we should all get along, with respect for one another and taking a moment to stand in their shoes, then working together.

Now, I’m going to get off my soapbox as soon as I’m sure it’s safe. It looks like a long way down, and I’m not as tough as I used to be.

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