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LTE – James Laskin – 10-23-2013

Last week’s “OFF THE MAYORS DESK” column is a pleasantly written rationale for why Glenwood City should annex land next to our school into the city and allow a 400 acre Silica Sand mine to open and operate on it for the next thirty years.

 It also serves to highlight some of the fuzzy thinking that goes into the promoting of the would be “Glenwood School Mine” argument for it. The Mayor in his article says Glenwood City could receive between $100,000 and $200,000 a year from the mine. First let it be noted that $100,000 and $200,000 are not almost the same numbers. One might say there is a lot of daylight between these two.

Never the less, the mayor goes on to list all the wonderful things that money could get Glenwood City. A new Library, a new City office building, a new senior citizens center, and improvements to the swimming pool, ballfield, more playground equipment and the list goes on. Now $100,000 is real money, but it doesn’t even begin to buy what’s on that list, let alone pay to maintain the things on the feel-good list. It makes the reader all happy inside but it’s just smiley fantasy talk.

However, if the Mayor and Council are serious about these and other significant civic improvements, they might, during those secret meetings with VISTA LLC (the Texas based sand mining company) not just accept whatever offer they are given, but instead realize what a very good bargaining position they (Glenwood City) are in. The fact is, industrial scale Silica Sand mining in Wisconsin is very profitable, with better then a 50% margin as stated by both R.J. Sykes, head of Vista LLC and by the filings of publicly traded Silica sand companies. Currently, clean silica sand for the oil and gas industry is selling for more than $60 a ton gross, with a net profit of over $30 a ton. Vista has said they will ship 27 million tons of clean sand out of the Glenwood School mine, netting them over $810 million dollars at today’s prices. But they only get that kind of a payday if Glenwood City will allow that land to be annexed into the city. It seems very short sighted and irresponsible to allow an industrial silica sand mine next to our school in the center of our town for the very little the mayor says is being offered.

If we instead demand $2.50 per ton of sand shipped as compensation for all the damage this mine will cause us and our neighboring communities that would actually pay for and maintain the list of civic improvements the Mayor speaks of and yet would amount to less than 10% of Vistas net income. If Vista, our Mayor and Council insist on putting a sand mine next to our school, at least have the wisdom and decency to strike a good deal for our residents. Let Vista pay to help create a community with truly great public assets and not sell us all out for the sand industries chump change.

James Laskin
Glenwood City Business Owner
October 19, 2013