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City Council holds meeting about annexing proposed sand mine land

GLENWOOD CITY — The city council heard about a request to annex some 400 acres of land in the Town of Glenwood into the city. The land is the site of a proposed frac sand mine on property owned by Scott Teigen and Robert Crosby Jr., located off County Highway G just south of the city limits.

Over 60 people attended the special meeting of the council at the Community Center Monday night, February 25 to gather information about the request.

Mayor John Larson opened the meeting and informed the crowd that this meeting was just for information and that no action would be taken by the council at this time. The mayor indicated that Scott Teigen had contacted him last week about the possibility of the city annexing the land from the Township. The mayor said he contact members of the council and set up this special meeting.

The mayor said that the meeting was posted Friday morning and this is the first time the council has had an opportunity to hear this information. “There has been no closed door meetings about this,” the mayor said, referring to what he noted was posted on a Facebook account. But the mayor noted that by the size of the crowd attending the meeting, “word spread very fast.”

The mayor noted that this was a special meeting and not a public hearing and he asked the council members if they would allow people from the audience to ask questions. On a motion by council member Nancy Hover and Crystal Booth’s second they approved allowing one hour time for questions and comments following the presentation by Teigen.

The mayor then asked Teigen to present his information about the request after noting that no paperwork or documents have been presented to the city about annexing that property.

Teigen explained at the meeting about the proposed mine, and that the request would be what he called “Plan B”. He noted that Vista Sand has currently an application before St. Croix County and that they will proceed with that application to allow mining of frac sand on his and Crosby’s property.

Teigen explained the application process with the county and we are “still going with it,” he noted. He said that he appreciated the openness of this meeting and the way the city was handling it. “This is a very important thing for Glenwood City, and we needed a plan B,” Teigen told the group. He explained that Vista Sand had originally proposed a twenty acre site with processing off that twenty acres, but withdrew that application after it was determined that the entire operation had to fit within that twenty acre site. A new application has been submitted to St. Croix County.

Teigen talked about the community and the need for local jobs, the need to fill vacant business stores in town and said that the proposed mine would create up to 60 new jobs for Glenwood City, plus the truck driving jobs. “It’s great for the community and good for business,” Teigen said. He went on to tell that the frac sand is worth about $25.00 a ton and that the county application calls for mining up to a million tons a year. “The process will last for 25 to 30 years,” Teigen said.

Council member Crystal Booth questioned about the city waiting until the county has made a decision, but Teigen answered, “It’s too big of a deal not to have a plan B.” Teigen indicated that the local impact to the city would amount to $200,000 to $250,000 annually. But the city would have expense involved in the possibility of hiring an engineering firm to police the site and he expected that Vista Sand would pay the bill. He also stated that Vista Sand would compensate local property owners for lost property values and wells and that they have agreed to make an upgrade to County Highway G for the heavy truck use.

Apparently by annexing the property, most of the permitting, discussion and approval process would be moved from the county onto the city. Teigen introduced an Eau Claire attorney that specializes in Annexation. Andres Helquist addressed the meeting about this matter and said that the county and DNR will still be involved and he noted an example would be with reclaiming permits after the area is mined.

Council member David Graese questioned about where the county was on their process and Teigen noted that a review was scheduled for March 7th. He told the meeting that he wanted to keep all information in the open.

Mayor Larson addressed the meeting and told of the things the city could accomplish with the extra money it could receive from the mining operation. “ I understand the concerns with the whole mining process, but I am not going to apologize for my support of this project,” the mayor said. He continued, “I have concerns about the traffic, health and I do have a granddaughter going to school here.”

The mayor then opened the meeting up to the public, but most of the questions and comments were not about the annexing of the property into the City. But, with the school being less than a mile from the mine site, air quality was a concern of some of the people that spoke. Truck traffic was another area as were wells. A couple of people spoke about moving into or having lived in the area for many years and that the frac sand mine would change the beautiful countryside into something not so desirable.

But some people indicated that if the frac sand mine were allowed to open, they would either move away from the area or take their children out of the local school and apply for open enrollment in another school district. Several people addressed these concerns and felt that at present there were no facts available to indicate that the sand was not a danger to public health.

Tim Emholtz, superintendent of schools here, addressed the meeting with three points that the school was addressing on the matter, but that they were still gathering information at this time and the school has a new attorney.

Charlotte Heimer addressed the meeting about investing in business on Main Street, and the need for community involvement, but stated, “I don’t think that Glenwood City is ready for a sand mine.”

Steve Ashley told the group that they moved into the area eight years ago because of the quality of life out here and spoke about how the increased truck traffic would change that.

Mabel Hoffman lives right next to the proposed mine and was disturbed by the amount of truck traffic that would travel in front of her home. “Why destroy the wonderful community we have here?” she asked.

Ruth Herdahl, who lives on Maple Street, told of her work with the insurance industry processing claims for people that had asbestos-related illnesses.

Steve Luepke, who lives on First Street, spoke about jobs and that not everyone that works in a community lives in that community. But added, “you are going to get more dust following a pickup truck down a dirt road in summer than you will ever get from this mine.”

But it was Joe Draxler, chairman of the Town of Glenwood, who voiced opposition to the annexing of the land. “I am one hundred percent opposed to the annexing process. We will loss 400 acres of tax revenue.” Draxler said. He continued, “we are the number one township in the county with dirt roads and I would like to put that money into township roads. It would be a major impact for the rest of the township and raise taxes,” if that land was moved into the city.

Draxler also noted that he was originally not in favor of the frac sand mining, but that he has traveled to other mine sites in the state at his own expense and now he is a big advocate of the mines. “It is an excellent opportunity for the Glenwood City area, but a very big blow to the Town of Glenwood if it’s annexed.”