Hobart farmer must fence in cows or face fines, jail time
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent January 17, 2013 10:30AM
Robert Berndt checks to make sure the gate is closed after feeding his cows on in Hobart Thursday Jan. 17, 2013 Berndt, 80, plans to erect a fence to keep the cows contained while the graze. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:02PM
HOBART — Frustrated that farmer Robert Berndt still hasn’t taken action to fence in his dairy cows months after being ordered to, the Board of Public Works and Safety is looking to take the matter to the courts.
“I won’t be content with Mr. Berndt saying he will do it,” said Mayor Brian Snedecor, who made the motion this week to seek a court injunction against Berndt regarding the containment of livestock on his Grand Boulevard farm.
City attorney Anthony DeBonis told the 80-year-old Berndt he will have to pay the city’s attorney’s fees to obtain the injunction, and that the city would ask the court to send Berndt to jail if he doesn’t follow court orders.
DeBonis said he hopes something can be worked out with Berndt and his family before it goes to court, but added he will begin drafting the paperwork.
Berndt said the court injunction won’t be necessary, that he was on his way to get the materials so his family members can erect a fence right away.
He said received permission from Building Official Mike Hannigan to erect the fence on his property.
“They scared me. (Code enforcement officer Ken) Gagliardi won,” Berndt said.
Berndt said Gagliardi also ticketed him and his daughter when they were removing food from a Dumpster to feed to the cows.
“Now the city has an ordinance against that,” Berndt said.
City officials have said they not only received complaints from neighbors of Berndt, who said they don’t want the livestock on their property, but contend the free-roaming animals pose a safety hazard along the heavily traveled Grand Boulevard, also known as Indiana 51.
Berndt’s house and farm are in the 6800 block of Grand Boulevard.
Berndt told the board that clean-up of his house has been progressing. He said it is now sealed so no wildlife can get in and the basement is dry.
In an email to the mayor, Berndt’s son said weather problems and required licensing have prevented the fencing from being installed as required.
Berndt also continued to express hope he could work out something with the neighbors, whom he said he had been paying for years to let his cows graze on their property.
But Gagliardi said the neighbors have returned all of Berndt’s checks from 2012 and have asked the city to enforce trespassing laws to keep the cows off their property.
Berndt said he had been paying the neighbors $100 a month to let his cows graze on their property. He said his family has raised cows on their acreage for about 100 years. Berndt said the herd is down to only eight cows.