PLATTSMOUTH – The Cass County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday gave its unanimous approval for a facility near Elmwood that will store and distribute anhydrous ammonia for farmers, though it was not popular by everyone attending the meeting.
It will be located on a 10-acre site near the northwest corner of Highway 1 and Fletcher Avenue about two miles north of Elmwood and will consolidate three current facilities within Manley, Murdock and Elmwood.
“I will define this as a critical infrastructure for the ag community,” Mike Jensen, the county’s zoning administrator, told the commissioners.
Before building and operating the facility, Midwest Farmers Cooperative needed a conditional use permit, which was the issue presented to the commissioners on Tuesday. The permit was approved earlier by the county’s planning board.
The facility would contain four 30,000-gallon anhydrous ammonia tanks and 60 to 70 so-called portable nurse tanks.
“From an agriculture perspective, anhydrous ammonia is the most stable source of fertilizer farmers can use,” said Jeremy Wilhelm, the co-op’s CEO.
The facility will eliminate the current need of farmers traveling in those three communities to get their ammonia from facilities that have become outdated, Wilhelm told the board.
Those facilities will close when the new one opens up, he said.
It will also have the latest safety features, plus anhydrous ammonia is tightly regulated in Nebraska, he added.
“We embrace those regulations,” Wilhelm said.
What’s more, the facility would only be open for a month or two during the spring and fall, he added.
Some local residents, however, were not so impressed.
Erin Ronhovde, for one, argued about increased truck traffic on a road between two school districts, plus the resale values of nearby homes would go down.
“I don’t see any farmers volunteering to put it in their back yards,” she said.
Jill Pratt, another neighbor with concerns, added, “We are getting no choice. They are coming into us.”
The project also had supporters from the public.
Ken Kunz of Elmwood said the location makes good sense.
“This facility is not in a back yard,” he told the board.
The board went along with the proposal, though the co-op must visit with rural water authorities on water issues, and no “off road parking,” Board Chairman Dan Henry said.
After the vote, Wilhelm said the facility will feature the best available technology.
“We’re doing the right thing,” he said.