Union County officials testified to the Ohio Department of Agriculture why they think a proposed egg farm is a bad idea for the county, and now they must wait to see whether or not ODA agrees.

Union County officials testified to the Ohio Department of Agriculture why they think a proposed egg farm is a bad idea for the county, and now they must wait to see whether or not ODA agrees.

County engineer Jeff Stauch said he was called to testify in a three-day hearing that began on Dec. 14. The hearing was requested by representatives of the Hi-Q egg farm, whose proposal for a large chicken egg farm in the northern part of Union County has met opposition from both the county and ODA.

Stauch said his part in the testimony dealt with describing the effects the proposed farm would have on Union County's secondary roads.

"For the most part, my discussion was centered on our concern for those roads," Stauch said. "We were able to share a list of our concerns in that setting with ODA staff, and the hearing officer seemed to be understanding."

Hi-Q proposes to construct 15 layer houses with 400,000 layers each, for a total capacity of 6-million chickens, on a site at 22450 Davis Road, West Mansfield, in York Township and the Upper Scioto Watershed. In August, ODA director Robert J. Boggs sent a certified letter to the company stating the department's intent to deny those building requests, citing the company's failure to furnish all the needed paperwork. Hi-Q representatives contested that decision, and requested a formal hearing before the ODA earlier this year.

Stauch has previously said that several county roads in York Township surrounding the site would need to undergo improvements before a significant increase in commercial traffic begins, while the county commissioners have maintained that an agreement between the county and the farm's developers expressing how those improvements will be funded, and by whom, must be in place before the project can move forward. Stauch said his testimony included providing an overview of how those roads would be affected from an engineering and financial standpoint.

"It was a challenging two hours, but I felt pretty good with most of the information we presented," Stauch said.

County prosecutor David W. Phillips submitted a letter to ODA as part of the hearing, outlining six reasons the county is encouraging the ODA to deny the final Hi-Q permits. The letter claims that (1) the applicant has failed to disclose all owners and/or operators; (2) Hi-Q has failed to meet the requirements imposed by Ohio law on a Major Concentrated Animal Feeding Facility regarding infrastructure improvements; (3) the applicants have failed to disclose civil actions filed against other animal feeding facilities owned or operated by them; (4) the pest control management plan required by Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) is inadequate; (5) the Manure Spill Emergency Response Plan is deficient; and (6) the applicant has failed to identify a certified livestock manager who is "reasonably available" during the handling of manure, as required by OAC.

With their testimony submitted, Union County officials must now sit back and wait on ODA. Bill Hopper, the department's chief legal counsel, said the next step in the process will be an internal one.

"The hearing officer will now take the case, and he is responsible for putting together a report on how it should be handled and submit that back to (the director)," Hopper said. "I suspect that will take several weeks. The ultimate decision-maker is the director of the department, he will review the evidence and make a final decision before issuing an order in the case."

Hopper said that Hi-Q officials would have an opportunity to review the recommendation, and if they disagree would then have 10 days to respond with objections to the hearing officer's report.

"If there are objections, a report of those is submitted to the director for a final decision," Hopper said.

Hopper added that if a party disagrees with that final order, it can then appeal to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission.