Dodge County is hoping to use newly acquired traffic data collected along country roads to address traffic safety concerns surrounding a controversial proposal for an eight-barn poultry operation in Nickerson that would produce chickens for Lincoln Premium Poultry and the incoming Costco chicken plant in Fremont.
During a Wednesday meeting of the Dodge County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Lon Strand said he had a partial report of traffic counts collected by the county highway department. He declined to make the report public until it was completed, but noted that it’s been “very eye-opening and interesting to see where traffic is.”
“(Highway Superintendent Scott Huppert) and I have been working on things that we could do … if the chicken facility gets approved, what we can do to help out in some of the safety issues that might arise if it is approved,” Strand said on Wednesday. “I think we’re way ahead of the game on that.”
At the board’s Jan. 31 meeting, Strand first revealed that he had asked Highway Superintendent Scott Huppert to begin monitoring traffic, at least in part because of the poultry-barn proposal. An earlier version of the Nickerson-based site, which would be operated by Case Camenzind and his wife Joscelyn, featured 10 barns and was denied by the board in a 4 to 2 vote last month.
Board members who voted no cited traffic concerns raised by residents who testified against the project and asked the applicant to return with fewer barns. In addition to sharing concerns about the environmental impact of the project, residents questioned how increased truck traffic surrounding the site might affect area roads and highways.
“I think we underestimated the impact of safety and traffic on that project — I think everybody did, I think Lincoln Premium Poultry, the Camenzinds, everybody did — and didn’t realize it was that big a part of the decision that our board made,” Strand, who voted in favor the project said on Wednesday. “We’re trying to get ahead of that.”
Supervisor Dave Saalfeld, who voted against the project, commended Strand for taking the initiative to request the traffic counts.
Strand noted that traffic counts were being taken all over the county — not just around the Camenzinds’ proposed site — and were collected with a mix of Dodge County equipment, state-owned equipment and equipment borrowed from another county.
The Camenzinds’ new proposal will be heard at a Dodge County Planning Commission on Feb. 19, and will be up for consideration by the board of supervisors on Feb. 27. One Dodge County resident, Nancy O’Connor, spoke about the project during a public comment period during Wednesday’s meeting. O’Connor expressed concern that the waste and animal mortality associated with the barns could impact water and soil quality. Costco and Lincoln Premium Poultry have previously countered these concerns by noting that they have required their contract growers to develop nutrient management plans.