Several residents, concerned about damage to a Houston County house caused by blasting at a construction mine, said current ordinances are insufficient to address large-scale frac sand mining.

At the May 28 Houston County Board of Commissioners meeting, resident Kelly Stanage spoke during the public comment portion about the construction mine issue and subsequent complaint, which was brought up at a recent planning commission meeting.

A resident living near a mine reported that blasting was cracking the drywall on a new addition to her house. Stanage said this instance of residential damage caused by traditional construction mining showed that Houston County’s mining ordinance can’t handle even current mining issues. In addition, staffing at the county level is not enough to protect residents, she contended.

Stanage said that before the board even begins thinking of allowing frac sand mining in the county, it needs to look at the construction mine ordinance and increase staffing in the environmental services department and zoning office in order to better identify these mining violations.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Dana Kjome, who also was at the planning commission meeting, was in agreement with Stanage’s comments. He explained that the vote on this particular issue had been delayed for 60 days, as the majority of the planning commission wanted to tour the site.

Chairman Justin Zmyewski said that in going forward with writing a new mining ordinance, the board needed to consider what the repercussion is for violating a permit.

Zmyewski referenced the county’s legal issues with Mike Fields. Fields successfully sued the county when a neighboring mine was allowed to violate a zoning permit by securing an after-the-fact permit expansion.

Yvonne Krogstad of Spring Grove also spoke about the proposal to establish a trout stream setback for frac mines. She said it was up to the county to protect local trout streams, as Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, would not support the legislation.

Crack filling bid approved

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski presented quotes for crack filling on the county’s asphalt roadways. He said it was an annual procedure where the highway department attempted to fill cracks in as many roads as possible.

The low quote from Fahrmer Asphalt came in at $1.91 per pound for filling cracks with hot rubber. Typically, the county budgets between $80,000 and $90,000 a year to fill cracks, going until all cracks are filled or until the budget is depleted. The quote was approved by the board.

Muffler installation needed on justice center boiler

Personnel Director Tess Arrick-Kruger brought in a request to install two mufflers on the county justice center boiler, at a total cost of $2,700. Arrick-Kruger said based on the size of the boiler and its location in a residential area, it should be muffled.

According to Arrick-Kruger, there had been a recommendation to install the mufflers during the construction process by the boiler manufacturer and engineer. Kjome asked if it was possible to go back to the justice center architect for the cost, as these mufflers were not installed during the construction process. Arrick-Kruger agreed to put the issue on hold and contact the architect.

In other news

• Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan brought in an application from Northern Natural Gas to expand a substation in Money Creek Township, which would effectively double its size. The expansion, which will include additional land use and permits, was approved by the planning commission and the Money Creek Township Board of Supervisors. County commissioners did the same.

• Automated system manager/custodian Fed Lee submitted his resignation, which was accepted by the board. The county will begin the search process to find a replacement.

• The board entered into closed session to meet with attorney Jay Squires regarding litigation with Minnesota Sands LLC.

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