Public hearing on frac sand mining in county scheduled for February 13

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

In an effort to receive more public input, a public hearing on the frac sand mining issue in Houston County has been scheduled for Monday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. The public hearing will be held in one of the lower level conference rooms in the Houston County Justice Center.

After once again discussing the controversial issue last week, the county board decided to schedule the public hearing. Members of the Houston County Planning Commission and county staff will be on hand to gather information.

At last week’s board meeting, County Attorney Jamie Hammell recommended that the board gather as much information as possible, schedule public hearings to receive public opinion and concerns and work through a very detailed learning process.

“Time is on your side. As of now, there aren’t any applications,” Hammell said. “We were able to get a lot of help from Winona County.”

Winona County recently approved a three month moratorium on any new frac sand mining operations. Wabasha and Goodhue counties have also approved moratoriums on any new mining permits.

Board Chariman Jack Miller recently attended an informational meeting in Winona. He said the main issues discussed were damages to county and township roads, ground water issues, air pollution, permit enforcement, the potential drop in adjacent property values and the reclamation of the land.

Yucatan Township resident John Griggs encouraged the county board to move forward with gaining as much information on the mining process and all the issues the industry poses. He said an ever-growing group of Houston County residents have signed a petition requesting the county board adopt a moratorium. As of Jan. 24, there were more than 200 persons who had signed the petition.

“The people are behind the county putting a moratorium into place,” Griggs said. “The comprehensive plan the county adopted in 2006 outlines what the county should or should not allow. There will be some monumental changes in this county if this industry is left unchecked.”

County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan recommended a public hearing be held and then if the county board feels a moratorium should be put in place, the board could move forward.

In other board action:

Final Justice Center costs

County Treasurer Donna Trehus brought updated figures on the cost of the County Justice Center, which was completed this past fall.

According to the figures, the county budgeted $17,608,234 for the construction of the facility. The total of what the county has paid and the contingency payments yet to complete was $17,392,255, or $213,979 less than what was budgeted. An additional $280,900 in sales tax rebates on the project brings that balance up to $494,879.

The county board plans to use a small portion of that amount to remodel the former courtroom in the courthouse into the commissioner’s board room.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]