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County to take action on organic farm drainage

By JOHN WALKER - jwalker@shelbynews.com

The owners of an organic cattle farm in the northeastern part of the county are due to receive a letter soon from the Shelby County Commissioners.

On Monday morning, the commissioners, convened as the County Drainage Board, voted to send a letter to notify Keith and Diane Linville of the county’s intention to clean the Cotton Run legal drain on their property at County Road 7855 E 600 N this fall.

The drainage ditch runs 4 to 5 miles, from near U.S. 52 east of Gwynneville south to the Little Blue River close to County Road 500 North, and serves a number of property owners in that area.

Because of their organic classification, the Linvilles don’t want the county to spray herbicides in the 1,320 feet of the Cotton Run ditch on their property to clear it of undergrowth obstructing the flow of water.

The couple was invited to Monday’s commissioners meeting, said Commissioner Don Parker (R-South District), president of the Drainage Board.

“We invited the Linvilles from Cotton Run to be here at 8:30,” said Parker, but they did not attend the meeting.

Commissioner Kevin Nigh (R-Center District) said the commissioners respect what they’re doing in running an organic farm, but the board has a responsibility to the other property owners served by the legal drain.

A ditch becomes a legal county drain when a majority of the residents in a watershed, or the owners of more than 50 percent of the land in the watershed, served by the drainage ditch petition the county to take over maintenance of it.

The property owners may be assessed a fee on their property taxes to fund the maintenance.

County Attorney John C. DePrez IV told the commissioners they have the authority to go onto the Linville property to clean the Cotton Run ditch.

“You’ve got the right to come in and remove the trees and shrubs,” he said, and will draft a letter to the Linvilles.

The county has a right-of-way area on either side of legal county drains to allow access for maintenance.

Parker said the county will respect the integrity of the organic designation.

“We’ll clean it mechanically, without chemicals,” he said, and will work on the west side of the ditch.

Nigh suggested waiting until after the crops were in later this year before taking action on cleaning the legal drain.

After the meeting, Nigh said delaying action will allow the Linvilles time to go in and clear the ditch themselves if they’d prefer.

In other matters, the County Commissioners:

n Appointed Martin Zinser to serve on the Shelby County Alcoholic Beverage Board;

n Granted a request by Sheriff Dennis Parks to dispose of three industrial clothes dryers used at the jail;

n Heard from County Surveyor Taylor Sumerford that work is due to start today on a drainage problem in Country Club Heights.