• Neighbors afraid heavier traffic will cause an accident on their narrow road
BROOKINGS – Some Bruce-area residents are concerned that an expansion at a local dairy will cause dangerous roads for them in the future, and they came Tuesday seeking help from the Brookings County Commission.
Jerry and Judy Danielson said their road is too narrow for two-way traffic, and they’re concerned a large number of feed and milk trucks traveling to and from the dairy will make the road hazardous in the future. The Danielsons live on 468th Avenue, east of Bruce and near Valley View Dairy Bruce.
“We’re talking several thousand trucks a year on that township road,” Jerry told commissioners. “We’re talking six milk trucks a day, and then there’s feed trucks, plus there’s the local farming. So, it’s going to be heavy traffic.
“And it’s slippery sometimes in the winter. I don’t know if you can get that road wide enough that – two semis, if they see each other, what are they going to do, back up? Because it isn’t always cleared off to the shoulders so that you can drive off.”
Michael Crinion, former owner of Valley View Dairy, has sold the dairy to A.J. Bos of Bakersfield, Calif. Bos did not attend the Tuesday morning meeting but was in Brookings for a Tuesday evening meeting of the Brookings County Planning and Zoning Commission. Bos had inherited a conditional use permit application that would allow Valley View to increase its cattle count from 2,100 to 3,500 head.
Bob Hill, Brookings County’s director of Planning, Zoning and Drainage, said Thursday that the Planning and Zoning Commission did approve the permit.
Tuesday morning, Bos asked Arjan Blok, owner of United Development of Brookings and project manager for the dairy expansion, to represent him at the commission meeting.
Taking on road work
Blok told commissioners that construction at the dairy began about three weeks ago and has been rushed for the past two weeks to complete a silage shed. They’ve had dust issues on the roads, which they’ve tried to control with water and now chemicals.
“Right now, we should be having 40 percent of the concrete in. The other 60 percent will be coming, but it will be over time,” Blok said.
The majority of work should be done by November, he said.
Besides work at the dairy, Valley View has agreed with Sterling Township that it will care for 468th Avenue. Once construction is complete, milk trucks are scheduled to take County Road 6/204th Street to 468th going to and from the dairy.
Hill said back in 2006 when the dairy expansion permit was issued, they were concerned that 468th couldn’t hold up to all the traffic. And because Sterling Township has said it doesn’t have the money to fix that road and it does not benefit financially from the dairy (the dairy is in Eureka Township), Valley View has agreed to make the road improvements itself.
Blok said that the township is putting in culverts while his company is widening the road where possible, bringing in six inches of crushed concrete, removing the top of one hill and building up the bottom of it to take care of a blind spot.
“And the second mile, where Danielsons are, we cannot really lower that hill because of drainage on the east side from the road. So, we agree with the township to build the driveway up – they have a pretty long driveway. When they come from their house, they can oversee way more on the left and the right side,” Blok said.
Blok said despite the higher number of dairy cows, the number of trucks running to and from the dairy over time will not change much.
“The big change is the owner that bought this place; he will change from Holstein cows to Jersey cows, so you will have less milk and less feed coming in. So, for the road, it should be almost the same,” Blok said.
Judy Danielson said her main concern is how the road will function long term, when the dairy uses it daily. She said she is skeptical that raising her driveway will fix the blind spots, and she’s afraid that is just one of numerous places where an accident could occur. Her husband agreed, and said he is concerned that traffic will increase beyond what the dairy now estimates.
“We’re talking large numbers now, so we’re just concerned about safety; and we’d like whatever legally can be done to make sure that it is safe,” Jerry said.
“There are some elderly people, myself included, that they meet a truck – and right now, they even meet my pickup – and they want their half of the road and in the middle. And we kind of plan for that. I’ve got concerns, you know. You start out, they lowball you with a number and then it steps up.”
Everyone agreed that Blok and United Development have been responsible and good to work with thus far. Commission Chair Deanna Santema thanked the Danielsons for expressing their concerns but said her board does not have jurisdiction over their township road. She urged everyone involved to communicate throughout the construction period.
“I just think that we need to work together,” Santema said. “I don’t know that there’s anything that we as a board can do other than to ask for the continued cooperation of everyone involved.”
The commission told the Danielsons to talk regularly with their township representatives about their concerns. Commissioner Dennis Falken, a member of the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said townships need to speak to that commission in a case like this so it can take the township’s concerns into account when making a decision to issue permits such as the one given to Valley View.
Contact Charis Prunty at email@example.com.