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James Blundy Jr., 42, of Williston was sentenced to five years in prison on June 15 in connection with the theft of copper from a rotation sprayer at Stevens Farms.
Blundy was one of three men arrested in connection with the theft on April 8. Blundy was charged with dealing in stolen property and grand theft. He is also responsible, along with two other men, to pay $30,000 restitution.
While it is Blundy's first time in court, a group of Williston farmers sent a letter to 8th Judicial Circuit Judge David A. Glant outlining the problems copper thefts have cause farmers and processors.
Signing the letter were: Duane Fugate, president of Woodrow Fugate & Sons, Inc.; Jerry M. Mills Jr., farmer; Rex Stevens, of Danny and Rex Stevens Farms; Koleen Neufeld, treasurer of B&G Seed Processors Inc., Freddie Bell, president of B&G Seed Processors, Inc.; Eric Barley of B&G Peanuts; David Benton of Benton Farms; Andy Robinson, manager of 35 Farms Inc., Avery Zeer of A&W Peanuts.
The farmers said in the letter that the replacement costs for damaged irrigation equipment can run $35,000 while a sprayer replacement can run $15,000.
"You are aware, we are sure, of the importance of adequate water on crops during all phases of the growing season and the minimum time to receive replacement copper wire for our irrigation systems is two weeks, not including the time required for rewiring and installation," the group said in the letter.
In addition, the farmers said the loss of a sprayer during growing season risked a crop loss, the loss of seed peanuts and the loss of income.
"The feeling of vulnerability created by the situation resulted in many nights of lost sleep, fraught with worry over whether our crops might suffer even more if these thefts continued," they said in the letter.
Blundy was charged with dropping off Edward Fenton, 21 of Williston, and Travis Egyed, 18, of Bronson, to Stevens Farms at 140th Avenue and Northeast 10th Street. where they stripped a rotary sprinkler system. The two cut wiring valued at about $2,000 for two hours before being picked up by Blundy. They later sold the copper and aluminum to Williston Recycling for $200.
The problem of wiring theft to sell the copper and aluminum has reached epic proportions in the county, said Sheriff’s Maj. Evan Sullivan at the time of the theft. Investigator Roger Bell and Investigator Mike Narayan worked on the case.