Inside a Town Meeting on Frac Sand Mining; Glenwood City, WI

First published on WIvoices.org

With over 100 frac sand mining and processing sites, Wisconsin is now the leading supplier of frac sand in the nation. But are companies operating in our state complying with regulations? According to a recent report, about 90% of sites visited by the DNR were issued letters of noncompliance, and nearly 20% of active frac sand mines and processing plants were cited for environmental violations.

This record is troubling for people when a mining company proposes coming to their town.

So at WIvoices.org, we’ve brought you a condensed video version of a small town meeting on frac sand mining. You will hear the concerns of people debating the pros and cons of annexing a proposed frac sand mining site to Glenwood City, WI. This meeting was held on February 25, 2013 and was informational, since no formal annexation request had been submitted prior to the meeting, and no action was taken by the city council.


You’ll hear Kwik Trip CFO Scott Teigen speak to his neighbors about his intention to allow operation of the “Vista Mine” on property he owns with the Robert and Velma Crosby family. [See WIvoices.org’s previous article for the history of the “Vista Mine” application and reference document for more information .]

Texas company Vista Sand, Ltd., along with Teigen and members of the Crosby family, are co-applicants for a Special Exception from St. Croix County to allow operating a frac sand mine located 1/4 mile from the Glenwood City public school, but County staff have determined the application currently is incomplete. However, Teigen explained that while they are still pursuing the County application, as a “Plan B”, they are requesting that Glenwood City annex the property and assume control of the frac sand mine permitting process.

People in the Glenwood City area are not so sure. Many think that annexation may allow sidestepping needed review and regulation – creating an easier route for a mine in their town.

Though passions ran high during this public meeting, everyone remained civil—and neighbors oftentimes referred to each other by first names. The applicant for the frac sand mine spoke directly to community members, the city council allowed an hour for questions, and people were informed about the issues.

Teigen addressed the crowd explaining that “We just think it is too important to the community to let it slip away”. He estimated that the direct benefit to the city could be up to $250,000 annually and potentially 50-60 jobs.

The experiences and viewpoints of Glenwood City area residents ranged widely.

The first resident, Leon Berenschot, emphasized the need for jobs in a small town—a sentiment echoed by others during the meeting. “We can’t just let this slip away.”

Resident Sali Mounce expressed concerns, “You need to look very carefully at what it’s going to cost you, because I don’t think you’re going to make a dime.”

Resident Julie Augeson, mother of twins said, “If that (mine) goes in near my kids’ school, I’m pulling them.”

Resident Chris Schone emphasized his level of concern , “If the (Glenwood City) council chooses to annex this property in, are they actually saying that we’re educated enough…if the board of adjustments and the zoning department is struggling this much with it?”

Resident Carol Vaga said her concern was “big time water”. “When I understand the aquifers that nature gave us – now we are going to pump those things dry – for 60 jobs?”

Chamber of Commerce member Charlotte Obermueller Heimer emphasized the need for a guarantee, “You can not count on a hand shake anymore, those olden days are gone…I don’t think we can count on a firm from Texas saying they promise they’ll take care of us.”

Joe Draxler, Chairman of the Town of Glenwood said, “I’m a very big advocate of this (frac sand mining) project, (however) I’m totally opposed to the annexation process.”

Evelyn Wylie, who lives near the Wilson Mine (local frac sand mine), “I will tell you for a fact – my property taxes raised this year by $200. I was told that my property taxes would decrease because the mine would carry taxes. Well, that didn’t happen.”

Superintendent of Glenwood City Schools, Tim Emholtz was present “just for clarification” about legal counsel for the district. He explained that they are “in a dialogue with Anders (Helquist)” who was seated a few tables away as counsel for Scott Teigen. Emholtz further explained that they were “in a little bit of turmoil because Weld, Riley, Prenn & Ricci, who Anders works with, was our legal counsel until Vista Sands employed them. So we’ve secured different legal counsel.”

Resident Barry Peterson said that Vista Sand’s committment to monitor the air for 6 months on a 27-year project “isn’t good enough.” “I have a 4-yr-old who hasn’t even started school yet, he’s going to go there his whole life.”

Resident Steve Ashley spoke next saying, “That’s the choice you’re faced with here – either quick money or quality of life. Quality of life will make this community grow.”

Carlton DeWitt, editor of the local newspaper said, “Kids are leaving this town now because there are no jobs now…when I was growing up, this town had a lot of jobs…those jobs are all gone. You know what’s happened? We don’t have any volunteers to man the fire department or ambulance service.”

Resident Mabel Hoffman lives along the proposed truck route, “We’ve lived down there 25 years in the valley and it is wonderful. In the evenings we can sit out on our patio and enjoy the quietness.”

Resident Natasha Larson said her main concern about the proposed mine is her asthmatic kindergartener. “Who’s going to be by my side when she’s 20 years old and has terrible lung issues?”

Resident Mary Alice Calhoun said she’d move out of the area with her dogs if the mine begins operations, ” I don’t even want to put them in this kind of danger.”

Resident Steve Luepke remembers when other industrial companies have come to town without incident. “I’ll admit, if the sand mine comes to town, I was a heavy equipment operator for years, I’m going to apply.”

Resident Ruth Herdahl, health claims processor of asbestos and silicosis, said her experience tells her that “We won’t begin to find out the real impact until our kids are 30-years-old.”

Mayor John Larson spoke last, “Are all mines run right? No… But I think it can be done right and this body needs to at least take that into consideration.”

Audio below of this entire meeting of the Glenwood City council on annexation; February 25, 2013

“Thank-you” to the Glenwood City and surrounding community. You have shared an example of our democratic processes in action, and advanced public awareness about the issues surrounding frac sand mining.

Check back with WIvoices.org, as we will continue to bring you updates on the “Vista Mine” at Glenwood City, WI.

 

Want more info? WIvoices.org Reference Document

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