According to a recent post on madison.com (Madison, Wisconsin’s online news source), one of the behemoth’s of Wisconsin’s corn market – Olsen Brothers Enterprises – violated multiple laws regulating construction site storm water and erosion control during construction of their huge grain storage facilities (each hold roughly1.5 million bushels of corn) in Belmont and Boscobel. And those violations are going to cost them almost $200,000, according to Lafayette County circuit court Judge William D. Johnston.
Businessman Paul E. Olsen and Olsen Brothers David and Luther (a state senator from Ripon), began building the storage facilities without permits, although they knew permits were required. According to the judge, they also failed to take required steps to prevent environmental harm and conduct necessary inspections. The Department of Natural Resources had warned the company to comply, but, Johnston said in his decision, the company’s “history in these operations appears to be that they would make the business decision, go forward with the project, and accept the costs for violation of the permitting procedure as a cost of doing business.”
An Olsen Brothers spokesman admitted there had been some technical violations of regulations, but that no environmental damage resulted. He claims in one case, the Olsen Brothers were told by its construction contractors that a permit was not required.
An attorney for a Berlin contractor argues the state cracked down too hard on the company with a $194,271.50 fine for environmental violations on the 2 construction projects.
“There were violations,” said Richard Carlson, the attorney representing Olsen Brothers Enterprises LLC. “But our main argument is the state’s contention that there was no best management…” continued Carlson. He also said the brothers have not yet decided on an appeal.
Though the grain storage sites are operating, control of much of the Olsen brothers’ holdings is a court issue in at least 2 counties, Winnebago and Green Lake.
The Olsen Brothers owned Olsen’s Mill Inc., one of the state’s biggest grain handlers, until it was sold in April 2009, after being forced by its lender into receivership. Olsen Brothers Enterprises, of rural Berlin, owns most of the real estate on which Olsen’s Mill did business.
Paul Olsen also is an owner of Renew Energy LLC, which opened a large ethanol plant in Jefferson, but is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Madison.