County board approves frac sand committee

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

A group of 13 Houston County residents will spend much of the next year learning all they can about silica frac sand mining, water quality, air and noise pollution and land reclamation issues, as well as how heavy truck traffic will impact area roads.

The 13-member committee, which was approved by the Houston County Board last week, will have the daunting task of pulling copious amounts of information together and then come up with a workable set of ordinances that will protect Houston County residents and the fragile geology of the Coulee Region, while still allowing silica sand mining to take place in the county.

The committee is made up of two county commissioners (Jack Miller and Justin Zmyewski), two township officers (Arlyn Pohlman and Dick Gulbranson), two planning commission members (Glenn Kruse and Bruce Lee), County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski, County Environmental Services Officer Rick Frank, County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan and four members of the public (Rich Schild, Kelley Stanage, Steve Beach and Eric Johnson). Members of the public alternates were also named (Allen Schulze, Tom Lisota and Ron Garrison).

“I’ve talked to many people about forming the committee,” Rick Frank told the county board. “I contacted (Houston County Township Association Chairman) Richard Markos to get recommendations for township officers. Several persons I contacted were very interested, but couldn’t make day time meetings because of employment commitments. So we decided to have three alternatives, who can fill in if one of the persons on the committee can’t be there.”

At the previous board meeting, Commissioner Justin Zmyewski had suggested having one representative from each township, along with members of the county board, county planning commission and county staff. The other members of the county board felt that committee would be too large to get anything accomplished. Zmyewski replied that the county board could establish a smaller “executive committee” that could hammer out the details. The rest of the commissioners did not go along with Zmyewski’s line of thinking and instructed Frank to put a list together for the March 27 board meeting.

Frank said he tried to get a good cross section of persons on the committee. He felt it was important to have some people on the committee who were knowledgeable about mining practices in the county and also to have township representation because township roads will be impacted.

“This is a fact-finding committee,’ Board Chairman Jack Miller pointed out. “All of the information they gain will be passed on to the full county board. They won’t be voting on anything. They will just be making suggestions. I feel very comfortable with what Rick has come up with.”

Frank added that there will be public hearings scheduled throughout the process. “There will be a lot of public input,” he noted.

A motion was made by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Steve Schuldt to approve the committee. The motion passed 2-1 with Zmyewski voting against. Commissioner Teresa Walter was not at the meeting.

Later Zmyewski explained he voted against the motion because he felt one representative from each township should have been on the committee.

“Rick did a good job of putting a committee together. I don’t have any issues with the people who are on it. I just wanted representation from each township.”