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Letters to the Editor: August 11, 2012

Not taking district technology comments personally

I am writing this letter with a feeling of much disappointment and betrayal after reading the following published in an article June 29, 2012 in the Morris Sun Tribune: "'I think based on what I've learned through this process, [Lien] stepped into a situation in Laporte that's very similar to ours - a little bit of chaos and disorganization and inconsistency - and has really established a really good technology plan and program there,' Monson told the board."

I feel the need to write a little rebuttal to it. You see, I am the one that obviously according to this article, didn't do a good job for the district. It is sad that the person that said that kind of a put down can say that. I say, "It's nice to be important but it is important to be nice." People will respect you.

Had the district had $59,000/year, to pay for technology help in the past there could have been two people in the department instead of what they are paying the one new person. I call this bullying and I believe there is to be zero tolerance for bullying, am I correct?

With the hurtful things being said in the past, I'm going to "set aside the pains of the past, enjoy the blessings of the present and look forward to the promise of the future." I have taken time to reflect on this and I have decided to not take the negative comments spoken about the situation that the new "director" has come into and I was formerly in "so called in charge of" personally. Because "what people say about you is a reflection on them not you."

The rest of the wonderful people I used to work with knew I did the best job I could with what little I was given.

Tammie Grossman; Alexandria, Minn.

Chickens of today not treated better than in the past

The July 28, 2012 edition of the Morris Sun Tribune ran a column by Katie Erdman titled, "Chicken Coops," in which Katie discussed her not-so-pleasant childhood memories of raising chickens on the farm and of gathering eggs from the henhouse.

I, too, have memories of gathering eggs from my auntie's chicken coops, of sometimes being pecked by the hens, and of helping on chicken-butchering days. I agree with Katie that some of these chores were unpleasant for the people involved. However, I must heartily disagree with the last statement in Katie's article where she says, "I just have to keep all those other images out of my mind and know that chickens these days are probably treated a lot better than in the past."

Most chickens today are NOT treated better than they were in the past!

All one has to do to see the crowded conditions in which most chickens and turkeys live today is to drive by any one of the huge confinement operations along our roadsides and see the birds jammed inside with barely enough room to move about.

As Katie states in her article, when she was a child she remembers, "Behind the coop was a large fenced in area where the chickens could go out through a small door . . . the birds would scratch around in the dirt and eat their feed."

This would have been a natural environment for chickens as it gave them room to do what they were made to do - scratch in the dirt. Nowadays, most chickens do not get to live in their natural environments, nor do they get to do the things that are natural and instinctual for them to do.

Recently I watched a documentary on public television about chickens raised in confinement in today's world. The videos showed images of chickens living their entire lives in torturous settings. The one image that I will never forget was one of baby chicks coming down a conveyor belt as factory workers picked up each one to determine its gender. If a chick was male, it was culled or removed from the conveyor belt because, or course, it could not grow up to produce eggs. Each male baby chick was then thrown, alive, into a large garbage can. These garbage cans were then emptied into the front-end loader of a tractor. The video then showed the front-end loader dumping up to five thousand live baby male chicks into an industrial sized dumpster in the back of the processing plant. The chicks were left in the dumpster to die. Throughout the video, one could hear playing quietly in the background the vocal music from the Catholic Mass, the "Agnus Dei." The words were repeated over and over: "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us."

I cried as I watched this video, and will never forget its images.

No, chickens are not treated better today than they were in the past.

Yes, chickens were butchered in farmyards by having their heads chopped off, but I think that their time of suffering then was brief. Now, their suffering often lasts a lifetime.

This was a hard letter for me to write, but I feel compelled to speak up for animals.

As Proverbs 31:8 tells us, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."

One of my favorite childhood books was the Little Golden Book of Prayers For Children. In it was this prayer:"Dear Father, hear and bless Thy beasts and singing birds; And guard with tenderness small things that have no words."

Linda Winter-Hodgson; Morris, Minn.

Report confirms need for environmental assessment

If the county environmental officer, Mr. Bill Kleindl, had done his arithmetic correctly, the report he submitted on July 31 to the County Commissioners would have forced the Board to confirm the need for an EAW on the Perkins Lake.

The project described in the petition included both the initial development of an event center and the future (phased) development of up to 30 seasonal RV sites. State guidelines require that any development to be phased in must be considered in such a review.

The Kleindl Report failed to address the latter issue of proposed future development. In this failure Mr Kleindl was supported by the County Attorney, but with statements that contradicted statements made earlier. At the meeting of June 19, in refuting the need for a mandatory EAW, Mr. Aaron Jordan said that B&H had indicated that seeking seasonal RV sites was one or two years down the line, if at all. Whereas, at the July 31 meeting, he dismisses reasoning for consideration of these by stating that the RV's are "off the table." Which is true?

The guidelines also require that the County shall order an EAW if "the project may have the potential for significant environmental effects." For example, is there the potential for excessive noise in the neighborhood from any or all of: dances in the pavilion, large gatherings of people in the area, up to 30 seasonal RV campers? Is there the potential for significant damage to the woods, rare in the county, by removing trees to site the RVs? Is there the potential for reduced safety on the lake caused by the associated increase in boat traffic?

The Kleindl Report was presented and made public on July 31, only two days before the Board had to respond to the State. It took the form of a mini-EAW, seeking the outside input normally required within the EAW process. And done at taxpayers expense, rather than the developers! This is hardly an appropriate procedure.

It was 100 pages long. There was no time allotted for critical analysis beyond the meeting time. Such would have been allowed for an EAW report. A request for such time was denied by the Board. This refusal was hardly an impartial response.

From the content of the report, it seems it was composed partly in conjunction with the developers, rather than remaining impartial. Its lack of impartiality is also indicated by the loaded language in an attached email, where Mr Kleindl refers to the claims of the petitioners as "Mr O'Reilly's accusations."

The Kleindl Report contains distortions, unjustified conclusions, and several non- sequators. Surely an increase of boat traffic from outside will increase the probability of invasive species. The report dismisses evidence from lakeside residents on erosion. It dismisses evidence from lakeside residents on peak boat population in favor of sporadic observations by a DNR officer, not necessarily taken at peak times. It dismisses expert evidence of degenerative effects on the woods as non-evidence. It claims that the developers will only increase the boat population by one! Why then are six long docks being installed? It includes a statement from the developers that the initial four RV sites will require removal of less that five percent of the trees. This extrapolates to 25 percent of the woods if say 20 RV sites are added. Is this not significant environmental impact?

Most egregious is Mr. Kleindl's miscalculation on noise levels. The report devotes 36 pages to the noise issue! Minnesota Pollution Control Agency data says that doubling the distance from a noise source reduces the noise level by six decibels. Mr Kleindl calculates that, for a source registering 90 decibels at 20 feet, then at 640 feet the level would be 55 decibels. Not so! He has doubled the distance only five times not six. A value nearer 1,280 feet (nearly one quarter mile) is a closer answer. Further, the developers give evidence that the amplified dance music reaches 94 decibels. Doing a similar calculation to the above gives that all houses within a distance of about 3,300 feet will be receiving noise at a level above the required level of 50 decibels. That is, the noise will be polluting all the houses along the west and south shores of the lake.

The process of dealing with this petition by the county has been shoddy, irregular, and deceptive. The Commissioners must bear responsibility for this malpractice. In particular they bear responsibility for their failure to allow critical analysis of the report. How can the public trust the commissioners if the county proceeds in such a partial manner? Maybe they have been in the job too long.

Looking to the future, I note that the zoning ordinance allows that the zoning officer can request Conditional Use Permit applicants to provide details including a scaled drawing of the development, landscaping and screening plans, drainage plans, sanitary and sewer plans with estimated use per day. I talked with the corresponding office in Otter Tail County and was told that that is a requirement there. Will Stevens County seek similar information for the upcoming CUP on this development?

Michael O'Reilly; Perkins Lake