Factory Farms, Electric Bills Topics At Town Hall Meeting
From factory farming and the legalization of marijuana to skyrocketing electric bills and the future of Meadow Grounds Lake, local residents came to last Thursday’s town hall meeting armed with questions and concerns to pose to state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr.
Dave and Mona Lippert of Ravensburg Road, McConnellsburg, along with neighbor Lorne Swope were among the two dozen residents to make an appearance at the meeting held in the local community room of Community State Bank of Orbisonia.
Hoping to secure the assistance and support of their local senator, the Lipperts informed Eichelberger they and fellow community members were never informed of the plans to convert a 224-acre Ayr Township farm belonging to the Jewish Federation into a concentrated animal farming operation (CAFO). The plans by Country View Family Farms officials are to construct a “birthing unit” for 5,000 sows south of Mc- Connellsburg at a farm located at 15197 Great Cove Road.
Mona Lippert said it wasn’t as if they weren’t looking or kept their heads buried in the sand. “We were never informed of it,” she stated. Her husband, Dave, president of the Fulton County Sportsmen’s League, shared his concerns as well. Touching on water quality and the outstanding trout fishing in Big Cove Creek that could be affected in the event of a manure spill, Dave pointed out Karl Brown, executive secretary of the state Conservation Commission, has already been apprised of the matter.
An unexpected spill could have an effect on the local economy, which gets a boost from fisherman travelling here from Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, Dave stated. Meanwhile, Swope pointed out the facility is anticipated to generate more than 8 million gallons of manure as the facility is reportedly twice the size of any existing operation in Franklin County.
Swope said at a “county level, we have no say in this.” Several times during the March 20 town meeting, residents referenced the Fulton County Conservation District as having “rubber stamped” the proposed farm at a recent board of directors meeting.
David Fant of Timber Ridge Road asked the senator if a community impact study could be done to help residents understand how their quality of life could potentially be affected by the operation that will generate 150,000 piglets annually. Fant referred to this as a “first step in a progression of CAFOs coming into this area.”
“The constituents here really have a need to have a credible study done ... so they can react properly and have the opportunity to make their voices known and heard ... ,” said Fant.
“We’re asking for your help. Please, senator,” Mona Lippert concluded.
In other matters related to Fulton County, Eichelberger announced the geotechnical study of Roaring Run Dam at Meadow Grounds Lake has been completed. The study was paid for by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and will be released to the public in the coming weeks. It will help determine how structural issues with the dam can be resolved.
Eichelberger said once the study is reviewed, the design process will get under way. It too will be funded by the PFBC. The entire process from start to refilling will take three to four years, the senator stated. The Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake have been “charged” with the task of raising $100,000 for the multi-million dollar project.
McConnellsburg resident Doug Martz broached the topic of skyrocketing electric bills as well as repetitive calls from companies wanting you to switch providers. Eichelberger referred to the situation as a “perfect case of buyer beware.” He added that variable rates weren’t intended for individuals who don’t keep a close eye on the market.
The senator also touched on a rumor regarding electric companies offering large sums of money to obtain lists of customers who haven’t changed providers. He noted the need to protect consumers from paying rates higher than what they are currently paying.
Under questioning, Eichelberger also spoke about Senate Bill 76 that would shift school property taxes to earned income and sales taxes. The measure would be good for retirees and pension recipients, he said, adding similar bills have been in existence for decades but haven’t progressed far through the legislature. Even if a shift from school property taxes was to occur, Eichelberger stated schools would still have to receive the same level of income.