LAKE MILLS — The Town of Lake Mills Plan Commission will wait another month before issuing a recommendation on three separate easements for Daybreak Foods.
The recommendation to the Town of Lake Mills Board of Supervisors will concern an easement for an above-ground, over-the-road conveyor and two below-ground easements for water, wastewater traveling to the lagoon system and communication lines and fiberoptic on Crossman Road.
In March 2018, the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee approved the conditional-use permit allowing Daybreak Foods Inc. to expand its egg operation to 2.75 million chickens, consisting of 2 million layers and about 750,000 pullets. The new facility features a cage-free setup allowing birds to roam the building instead of being in cages.
Rick Roedl, capital projects manager at Daybreak Foods, presented the plan for the easements Tuesday night to the Plan Commission and to a room full of neighbors of the 54-year-old egg laying facility.
Residents at the meeting said that, in their view, things at the farm haven’t gotten better over the last several months.
“I haven’t been getting much sleep lately. The fan noise has been keeping me up,” said Sherry Hellekson, neighbor of the farm. “The fan noise has been getting louder.”
Hellekson and other neighbors say they’ve had chicken feathers on their properties and the smell has not gotten better outside their homes.
“They are all over the place,” she said of the feathers. “Let’s just fix all this other stuff first before we go to possibly another issue.”
Anita Martin, a local environmental advocate commented on the smell and feathers, saying, “This is not biosecurity. We live more than two miles away from Daybreak and chicken feathers are coming into our yard … What is happening on Crossman Road isn’t staying on Crossman Road. It comes into the city.”
Stacy Weger, who has lived on Crossman Road for two years, said the fan noise is making it difficult to enjoy their backyard.
“It sounds like we are sitting on a tarmac and (with) the bird feathers, it’s gross.”
Residents also say they don’t open their windows.
“We’ve never been able to open our windows since we’ve been there,” Weger said. “The stink will wake you up.”
Roedl attributed the continued smell to the old site, which will be dismantled after the new site is fully operational in the fall of 2020.
“The odor you smell out there still comes from the old site. It is active and, based on our plan, by August or September 2020, that site will be shut down. By October, those buildings will be taken down,” he said. “That will eliminate the odors coming off that site. For the most part, there are no odors coming off the new site. Our team is working as hard as ever to try to reduce that and no more chickens will be added to that site and we will depopulate it as time goes on.”
Currently, all of the nine layer houses on the old site are populated. The buildings have been on the site over 40 years. As the new buildings are put up, the birds will be moved to them.
As for the bird feathers, 16-week-old birds from the pullet houses on the County Highway A site are being trucked over to the new site on Crossman Road.
“It takes about 18 trucks to fill one-half of a layer house; it’s about 200,000 birds. In that process, there are feathers. There always have been feathers in bird movesl it’s part of the industry,” Roedl said. “What’s going to change in the future, we are building our own road through the back side of the pullet site that will come out by the feed mill and go straight across over to the layer site.”
He said the roads will be paved, be cleanable and bio-secure.
“We will reduce the route size and keep it on our property.”
As for the fan noise, Roedl said the company agrees the fans are louder than anticipated. The company has hired an acoustic engineer to study the noise level generated by the facility. Roedl said they put testing equipment on the Hellekson property and are looking to put equipment on other neighboring properties.
“We are approaching this scientifically, so we can correct it once and correct it right,” he said.
Daybreak plans to have the information from the study in the first week in September.
The over-the-road feed conveyor, which will bring food to layer chickens on the other side of Crossman Road, would be supported by two towers standing 35 feet tall on each side of the road. The conveyor will be a roller-type that Roedl says is “quite quiet.” It will be enclosed, but allow access for maintenance and inspections.
Residents asked whether it was possible to build the conveyor underground, but Roedl said putting it underground would cause too many other problems with groundwater and other issues. Roedl also said running trucks to send the feed across the road wouldn’t be an environmentally-friendly way to do business.
The town’s engineer said he believes the over-the-road conveyor might be covered under state statutes with a privilege, which is revocable.
Roedl told the commission he didn’t have a problem with any of the town’s engineering issues given to him in a report Tuesday night. He also agreed the company could be involved in making repairs to Crossman Road after the project is completed.
Members of the Plan Commission agreed there were too many unanswered questions Tuesday night to make a recommendation.
The Plan Commission will discuss the easements at its meeting next month and could make a recommendation to the town board, which will discuss the easements at a meeting on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m.