Commissioners approve haul route for Rein Sandpit despite concerns

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

Fillmore County commissioners wrangled with several different issues during the Tuesday, Sept. 11, County Board meeting.

Highway engineer Ron Gregg and zoning administrator Cristal Adkins came before the board with a haul route request for Rein Sandpit in Section 35 of Holt Township.

Resident Kristine Hall had sent a letter to the commissioners outlining her concerns and opposition to the route proposed, citing that the use of County 21 to Canton to reach Decorah could have numerous economic, safety and precedent impacts.

In her letter, she noted that she felt the Rein mine can use the original route to Rushford approved through the EAW and CUP process.

She wrote, “Following the December 2017 planning commission meeting that approved the County 21 route and County 12 west route to Highway 52, I wrote a letter to the commissioners and (coordinator and auditor-treasurer) Bobbie Vickerman expressing my concerns regarding these routes. I am restating my concerns, which remain the same for this one haul route, and which apply to any one possible route traveling form Stark Corner (as this Canton route does at the Stark Corner intersection of County 12 and 23).”

She went on to list that haul routes traveling from Stark Corner travel through and affects the Amish-settled region and “an area notable for trout fishing…local towns, businesses, families and individuals in the extensive impacted rural area of Lanesboro, Canton, Mabel, Harmony, Preston, Amherst, Henrytown, Lenora, Newburg, Chickentown, Grubtown, Tawney, Wisel, the Big Woods, Simly, the Rekstad Valley, etc., rely on the uninterrupted enjoyment of rural properties and activities as a fundamental part of the attraction of living in and traveling to and within this area. A haul route through this specific Fillmore County region would be a deterrent to economic assets including resident and visitor travel to destinations including farms, homes, businesses, fishing sites, cabins, campgrounds and hunting lands…high traffic and road repair frequency through this specific region would disrupt these economic assets in a negative way physically and perceptually.”

Safety concerns encompassed slow-moving travelers, such as tractors and Amish buggies and pedestrians such as children walking to school, and precedent would be set for “future Fillmore County and/or other counties’ mines to attain haul route approvals through this very same area of Fillmore County and thereby magnify the economic and safety concerns addressed above,” Hall said. “Also, precedent is set that allows haul route approval affecting a large number of people in a large area of the county without a more extensive haul review process.”

Commissioner Duane Bakke observed that the action to deal with the route proposal would not be reopening the conditional use permit (CUP), but that it would update the existing agreement, that “abandoning the current County 12 west route is not feasible.”

A motion was made to allow 90 loads per day out of the sand mine instead of the current 120 per day.

Commissioner Marc Prestby commented, “I’m just not happy with the agreement…nothing is put down here what we agreed on.”

Bakke added, “The County 10 to Highway 43 route, we’d suspend, not abandon.”

Commissioner Randy Dahl registered his question, “If another sand pit opens, are we going to have to talk about the number of loads coming out of quarries?”

Bakke countered that it was a matter of the practicality of the number of loads coming out of the sandpits and that more restrictions were placed on sand mining in Fillmore County — particularly the Rein mine — because it was expected to be a “fast retraction” and because another agreement ought to be drafted by August 2020.

“It’s an ongoing process, but today, we’re talking about road impact,” he said.

The motion to change the number of loads allowed out of the Rein mine passed, after which the board went on to speak about the route. Bakke pointed out that while there had been some in the gallery inquiring as to why there had been no public input allowed during the current meeting, public input was accepted at the December planning commission meeting.

Emergency routes came up next, and Bakke remarked that he felt the emergency route should be south on County 23 to Highway 43 to Mabel.

Gregg interjected that the proposal to change the number of days allotted to create an emergency route from ten to two would cause some difficulty in establishing a route following an emergency such as flooding.

Conversation on that topic evolved, after which the commissioners voted to approve the road impact agreement.

Other business

Gregg then asked for the awarding of a bridge replacement contract to Structural Specialties of Hutchinson, Minn., for a bridge on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1, near Ostrander, with a low bid of $483,554. The commissioners voted in favor.

Next, Adkins presented access permit requests for Merlin and Karen Ricklefs for a new field drive in Carrolton Township, one for David and Tammy Schoppers for a new field drive in Carimona Township, another for Fred and Linda O’Connor to expand an existing field drive in Carimona Township, and one for K5 Properties and Matt Kolling for a new field drive in Section 28 inside the city of Spring Valley. All permits were approved.

Coordinator Vickerman brought forward the annual budget discussion for the 2019 budget proposal, seeking a target percentage point for the county’s levy change. The 2019 preliminary levy change stood at a proposed 7.84 percent, but she related that she could possibly shave off some points from the sheriff’s and public health budgets if she worked with the heads of those departments. The commissioners named 3 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent as their respective goalposts, but ultimately, they settled on Vickerman informing department heads to aim for between 3 and 4 percent increases in their budgets. At 7.84 percent, the levy would increase from $10,454,200 in 2018 to $11,274,230 in 2019, totaling an estimated $540 per capita.

Discussion then turned to whether or not to allow a resident petitioning for the repurchase of tax-forfeited property. However, with the forfeiture auction slated for later in the day on Sept. 11, the commissioners disagreed with the petitioner and the basis upon which the petitioner was led to believe. Vickerman stated the property was already in state possession after years of the petitioner having delinquent taxes. The board called for the auditor’s office employee to elaborate on how the decision had been made to notify the petitioner at a late date, and after some discussion, chose to disapprove of the repurchase, asking that an end date for repurchasing petitions be posted alongside notice of the tax forfeiture auction date of next year’s and ensuing property auctions.