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RF Town's new mining law brings one dissenting vote

River Falls Town Board supervisors voted 4-1 to pass a nonmetallic mining law they and the Planning Commission have worked on for a year at the July 1 meeting.

The new law covers environmental concerns related to the frac-sand mining boom that's revolutionized the nation's gas and oil industry.

River Falls Supervisor Tom Sitz voted against the new law. He said it's too restrictive and will deter anyone from thinking about mining in the town.

Sitz didn't like the definition of an "affected landowner" including everyone within a three-and-a-half mile radius of a proposed mine site.

Sitz said he's against the entire law and that the town will never have to worry about a large mining operation thanks to the new restrictive law.

"We're making an ordinance against sand and anything else," Sitz said. "What if they discover all the clay in the township and want it?"

Supervisor Brad Mogen replied by asking if Sitz he would open up the whole town to mining with no regulation.

Sitz said no, but was adamant that the new law is against all nonmetallic mining.

Mogen countered that he applauds the law.

"The density of citizens we have in an area like this requires we have very stringent regulations," Mogen said.

Town Board Chairwoman Diana Smith said the bottom line is to not restrict a person's ability to do business in the town but to protect the town's residents.

"The reason we're doing it at a local level is due to a lack of regulation at a higher level," Smith said.

She also said the law is not nearly as restrictive as the experts they consulted wanted it to be.

Supervisor Leroy Kusilek said his son works in Bloomer where a nonmetallic mine has revitalized the area economy.

"My son said it's the best thing that ever happened up there," Kusilek said. "It put hundreds of people to work that needed it. They're not all bad."

Smith said the purpose is not to restrict, but to make mining operators responsible for their environmental impact and make sure any damage incurred by the mine is eliminated.

In other business, board members and road crew employee Brian Weber agreed to make improvements to 805th Street.

The road will be inspected Thursday, July 11, and a plan put into place from there, starting with tree removal in the right-of-way.

Smith said they hope to widen the road as much as possible and add new gravel, which could alleviate the icy buildup in winter.

Everyone agreed something must be done with the silo -- it almost reaches the road -- if there's to be any hope of widening the road and improving safety.

Smith also told the board she was contacted by the Pierce County Sheriff's Department about a dog fight at N8304 945th St., in a rental home.

Apparently an unleashed pit bull attacked a golden retriever while the owner was walking the retriever to a mailbox. Another unleashed pit bull was also onsite.

None of the dogs are licensed, Smith said, and added that both unleashed pit bulls are roaming unattended.

Smith wants landlords who allow pets to inform renters that dogs must be licensed in the town.

Supervisor Siri Smith agreed.

"You would think that would be common sense, but apparently some residents in our town don't have that." Siri Smith said.

Another matter of concern is collecting overdue fire call fees.

Diana Smith said no matter what, the calls must be paid to the city somehow, and often the towns end up eating the cost when people refuse to pay.

Smith is concerned about the rising cost of fire calls year after year.

She said these costs for the towns to have the city provide fire protection will double when money from the five towns in the Rural Fire Association selling the city their fire equipment is used up.

Smith said the city is not required by law to provide rural fire service, but towns must. The rising cost cannot be offset by raising the levy either, Smith said.

Mogen said he will look to the Wisconsin Towns Association to see if it has any advice.