County continues to address frac sand mining issues and planning

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

Olmsted County Assistant County Attorney Tom Canan, who will be the county’s legal counsel on the frac sand mining issue, recommended that the county board reaffirm the motion to enact a one-year moratorium on silica frac sand mining last week.

“I know the board was under the gun to get something passed before the proposed legislation being considered in St. Paul could become law,” Canan said. “But I feel a second motion should be made to reaffirm the first motion.”

Canan said a notice of intent to enact an interim ordinance needed to be published 10 days prior to any action. That notice had been published 10 days prior to the March 20 board meeting and he told the board if they felt the interim ordinance (the moratorium) needed to be approved, they could do so now and have it effective March 20, 2012.

Environmental Services Officer Rick Frank was asked if anyone had applied for a mining permit during the time the board had first approved the moratorium resolution and the March 20 meeting. Frank said there had not.

A motion by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to reaffirm the intent of the previous action by the county board to enact a one-year moratorium on silica frac sand mining in the county was unanimously approved.

Frac sand committee

The board spent some time discussing how large and who should be on the committee that will bring recommendations on rules and regulations on frac sand mining to the county board.

Cannon said he researched the county’s current ordinances and felt the county had some good ordinances in place.

“You won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Canan said.

Zmyewski said in his conversations with county residents, he heard that people felt there should be one representative from each of the 17 townships.

“We could have a larger group and then a smaller ‘executive committee,” Zmyewski opined.

Frank said he thought the county board should ask Houston County Township Association President Richard Markos chose someone to represent the townships.

“This could turn into something like the Hatfield and McCoys if we get too many people on the committee,” Board Chairman Jack Miller said.

Zmyewski added that some residents were concerned that the committee would be hand picked and slanted one way or the other.

Schuldt noted he did not want the committee to be loaded one way or the other.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke suggested the entire county board be on the committee, as there would be representation from every township that way. “Anyway we do this, someone is going to be mad,” Bjerke added.

Frank suggested that the board review a number of names and come up with a committee. “You’re going to need to have representation from both sides of this issue to make it fair,” Frank added.

Miller pointed out that because a number of neighboring counties have already begun this process, there should be very valuable information out there Houston County could utilize.

Canan suggested that the committee include someone with mining experience, get as much hard data as possible and have an odd number of persons on the committee, so there can’t be any deadlocked votes.

The board didn’t take any action on this issue.

Golf carts and Money Creek

Money Creek Township resident Robin Danielson addressed the board about a safety issue she has concerns about in Money Creek Township.

Last year Danielson came before the county board and told them that golf carts were being illegally operated on the county road and the township streets. Because Money Creek is not an incorporated village, police protection is provided by the Houston County Sheriff’s Department and all civil ordinances handled by the town board.

Danielson contends that persons operate golf carts all over the community, with no regard to traffic laws. She has contacted the Sheriff’s Office, met with the town board and has not gotten anyway.

She claims that the sheriff is not enforcing the law.

The county board decided to discuss the matter with Sheriff Doug Ely and asked County Attorney Jamie Hammell to look into the specific laws dealing with the operation of golf carts in a township.

Human Services redesign

Matthew Burnham of Accenture provided the board with an update on the Southeast Minnesota Human Services redesign project, which involves 12 Southeast Minnesota counties.

The redesign is actually a state-mandated program, as all counties with less than 55,000 population will be required to enter into a collaborative to streamline the costs for offering human services to residents.

According to the study, the 12-county area should be able to save $30 million over five years once the new operating model is in place. Most of the savings would be realized in technology upgrades, the sharing of facilities and through a smaller workforce.

Burnham was quick to point out that the vast majority of cuts in the workforce would be done through attrition. At the present time there are approximately 800 employees working in the 12 counties in human service departments.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]