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County approves plans for Rail to Road

This 3D rendering provided by Clark Meyer, president of Rail to Road, shows what a facility along the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail line near Org may look like. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, Nobles County commissioners approved of the plans for Rail to Road Inc. to construct a transloading facility along a township road southwest of Worthington.

Clark Meyer, president of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Rail to Road, had earned the recommendation from the county’s Planning Commission a week ago for the project after a lengthy public hearing.

Several neighbors to the proposed site appeared before commissioners Tuesday, with their primary concerns for safety and the condition of the township gravel road near Org that will be used by trucks accessing the site.

Brian Bishop, who noted he would be the nearest neighbor to the transloading facility, said his major concerns include safety, the impact on property values and the 5-ton weight limit on the gravel road. He encouraged the board to delay a decision on the project until Meyer had worked out details with the township about road maintenance.

Though 280th Street splits Bigelow and Worthington townships, Worthington Township maintains the road. There was considerable discussion about the road, and Meyer said he would work with the township to ensure the road was kept in good shape.

“We’re going to want that road in the best quality for our customers and the traffic,” Meyer said.

“I can see it in better condition than it is now.”

Initially, Meyer anticipates four to six trucks will access the site on a daily basis to collect materials offloaded from rail cars on the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority line. He hopes that business will grow eventually to perhaps eight trucks per day, noting that 10 trucks would be “phenomenal.”

Etta Schroeder said she was concerned about the issuance of a permit for the facility without there being any parameters on the materials that may be unloaded from rail cars at the site.

“I don’t want to see chemicals brought in on that property,” she said before asking if the site was large enough to hold eight cars a day and whether Meyer had an option to buy additional land for future expansion.

Meyer replied that he doesn’t handle hazardous materials at his other facilities and that they aren’t experienced to do so. He also confirmed he has an option to buy more land if the need arises.

In a previous story in The Globe, Meyer said the primary product to be unloaded at the site will be Portland concrete, although it’s possible there may also be loads of other construction material, such as lumber and rebar.

Other questions raised by neighboring landowners pertained to a tile line in the right-of-way, whether the rail line would be improved and concerns about rail cars blocking road access.

Meyer had already agreed to work with the landowner regarding the tile, said plans are to improve the rail line and noted there is enough track on the site to keep cars from blocking the road any longer than necessary for railcar movement.

Mitch Reker, of Reker Construction, offered his support for the project during the public comment.

“In my opinion, he’s doing his due diligence to make this road good,” Reker said. “I think he’s being proactive and taking the road into consideration.”

Commissioner Gene Metz said that as a businessman, Meyer will want to maintain the road.

“It has width and shoulders of a county road,” Metz said. “It is capable of being built up.”

Metz, who represents the county with Commissioner Matt Widboom on the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority, said that Rock County has been blessed with the business of the rail thus far.

“We haven’t gotten a lot out of it,” Metz said in his support for this new endeavor. He also said that if the township isn’t able to keep the road maintained in the future, he would support the county taking over maintenance of that stretch of the roadway.

Disagreements between commissioners on whether to request a written versus verbal township road agreement led to the 4-1 vote, with Widboom casting the lone vote in opposition. He supported a written agreement. Metz said requiring a written agreement would set precedence in the county — a precedent that could impact livestock facility permitting on township roads in the future.

Also on Tuesday, the board approved a conditional use permit for Andy Weiss, Adrian, to construct a 102- by 192-foot total confinement swine barn in the northeast quarter of Section 3, Westside Township.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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