Town extends frac ban, gives cattle advice
A public hearing to extend the moratorium on the expansion of existing and creation of new nonmetallic mining operations was held at the town of River Falls regular board meeting Monday, Nov. 19.
The Town Board voted to extend the moratorium another six months until June 3, 2013.
Town Zoning Administrator Jerome Rodewald said the Plan Commission and Town Board have been working diligently, but admitted it's a huge task.
"We're doing well with our progress, but we're learning more every day," Rodewald said.
Town Board Chairwoman Diana Smith said even though they have been studying the frac sand issue for more than nine months, more time is needed because new information is uncovered every day and the board wants to be thorough.
"Protecting our citizens' air quality and water quality, not to mention our town roads, is top priority," Smith said.
Town representatives are working with experts in mining engineering, plus studying other town's laws.
Supervisor Tom Sitz suggested studying St. Croix County's law on nonmetallic mining since Pierce County has none.
Smith agreed, saying any law passed will cover the town of River Falls, but not all the other municipalities surrounding the town.
"We would certainly like to see the county have something in place to protect the people," Smith said.
Plan Commission member Joe Mahoney said it's important to remember that even if a mining operation doesn't open in the town, mine traffic from surrounding areas could end up using town of River Falls roads. He emphasized keeping that in mind when writing the law.
Pierce County Board Supervisor Scott Bjork, present at the meeting, said the consensus is that a county-wide law is not a major concern right now since most sand wanted by mining companies is concentrated in the river bluff area.
Bjork said that could change if mining companies begin to show interest in other places around the county.
Another ongoing issue for the town has been stray cattle causing a nuisance on the land of Mark and Kathy Gehl, N7573 730th Ave. The Gehls own and operate Gehl's Buffalo Hill Ranch.
According to Smith, the Gehls have had problems with feral cattle coming onto their property and causing damage for years. The problem has finally come to a head. Mark Gehl wants something done.
Gehl said he's pretty sure he knows who the owner of the cattle is, but that person will not claim ownership.
Supervisor Brad Mogen suggested Gehl write letters to all adjacent landowners, asking if any of them have animals missing and, if so, to come forward and claim them. He suggested giving a deadline of Nov. 30 for responses.
Then Gehl will have to place a notice in the newspaper for three weeks describing the cattle by all artificial and natural markings, Town Clerk Ruth Stern said.
If no one claims them, Gehl can then proceed with selling the animals and being reimbursed for feeding and housing the animals, plus for the damage they have caused to his property.
Board members agreed this issue and fencing laws need more consideration. They will discuss them in more detail at the next regular board meeting -- this will be after the Nov. 30 deadline for neighbors to respond.
Smith also brought up a concern she heard from Eric and Mary Matheson, N8507 805th St.
The Mathesons said they received a letter from the River Falls Bus Garage requesting they bring their children to the end of their road when it's in poor condition due to winter weather.
The road, which is narrow, graveled and shaded, is sometimes slippery when the plow hasn't been through yet and the bus cannot get down it without putting the lives of the children already on the bus in danger.
The Mathesons asked if something can be done about this, Smith said.
Board members agreed it needs more discussion, but are unsure of what can be done.
Smith said redoing the road so bus travel is safer in winter would be at least a three to four-year process, but that it's on the board's radar.
The road has a silo and possibly other buildings that would need to be removed if it were to be redone, not to mention new culverts, removing part of a hillside, widening the road and redoing the base, Smith said.
Mogen said there are other roads that need attention too so it's a matter of prioritizing.
In other business:
- The board approved the deed, lots, rules and regulation for Glass Valley Cemetery on County Road E.
- The tax enclosure newsletter was approved, which included information about burning permits and dog licenses.
- The board approved the Winter Road Maintenance Policy. The policy is in effect Nov. 1. For information on road conditions, call Smith, 715-425-5478, instead of the Town Shop.