You say cornfield, I say cover crop, let's call the whole thing off

By Emily Hedges

It’s a bad situation for Security Bank that keeps getting worse. During the June 11 Mayer council meeting, Julie Jedlicki of Security Bank of New Germany learned they will lose even more money on the 16 acres of the Coldwater Crossing development that returned to the bank more than a year ago.

Jedlicki and the bank were faced with the question of what to do with unsold lots that they felt were not going to be commercially viable for 10-15 years. In a meeting with Luayn Murphy, city administrator, and Dave Martini, city engineer, Jedlicki mentioned they might choose to plant a ground cover crop, perhaps alfalfa, in order to preserve the soil and reduce maintenance costs. Murphy and Martini verbally agreed. Since then, the bank has spent approximately $40,000 to clean up the property. They also entered into a contract with local farmer Wade Thaemert to cultivate the area.

"A year ago, it was just common sense that we needed a way to manage it (the maintenance)," said Jedlicki. "We can’t just do nothing. It’s disturbed soil. Weeds will grow not lush grass."

Jedlicki explained to the council that she left the meeting with Murphy and Martini assuming they would probably plant alfalfa, but was later advised that tree roots would make that sort of crop difficult for farm machinery to safely navigate. The result was 12 acres planted with corn, something that is not allowed by city ordinance because the property is zoned R-1.

"We thought we were just talking a cover crop to make it easier to maintain. That’s what we believed was happening," said Martini.

Now it’s time for Thaemert to spray the corn crop with pesticides and the neighbors aren’t happy about it. A few adjacent property owners were in attendance to ask the council to intervene.

"My first priority must be the health of my family," said Lucas Woodford, who has four young children.

Neighbor Chris Nelson agreed. "I live in the city. If I wanted to live next to a corn field, I’d have bought in the country."

Jedlicki continued to maintain that while she should have specified in her contract with the farmer specifically what was allowed for planting, she did in fact receive permission from the city to at least plant alfalfa, which also would have required spraying and farm machinery on neighborhood streets.

Martini and Murphy both reiterated that they did not authorize farm use on the property because they didn’t have the authority to do that given that it is against city ordinance. Murphy further accused Security Bank of taking advantage of the misunderstanding to try to short the city in tax money.

"The whole elephant in the room is the bank wants the land designated agricultural to lower tax rates from 1.25 percent to 1 percent," said Murphy.

Jedlicki said that the move to request an agricultural designation from the county was not premeditated, and merely a good financial decision by the bank that is seeking any opportunity to recoup money lost on the property.

Murphy pointed out that the City of Mayer lost money too, preparing for population growth from Coldwater Crossing that never materialized.

"The city went out on a limb, too," said Murphy. "It’s not right trying to get out of taxes."

The council decided to allow the corn to stay, but will not allow any chemicals to be sprayed, which according to Thaemert means he will yield a quarter of the crop.

Lorna Guetzkow Day

May 3, 2012 was proclaimed Lorna Guetzkow Day in honor of the Mayer resident’s 100th birthday. The council wanted to honor Guetzkow in part because she has spent most of her 100 years living in the community.

Guetzkow’s family was in attendance for the official recognition and reception following. For a photo from the event, see Page 8.

In other business: