Pity poor Superior Silica Sands.
Unlike the Tiller Corporation, which was fined $5000 after it went ahead and started construction without obtaining the proper permits for a frac sand processing facility in North Branch, the MPCA permit process slowing down silica sand facility proposal, the East Central Minnesota Post reports. That's Superior Silica Sands proposed transloading facility.
A headline like that might gladden the heart of politician who fantasizes that sand mining builds "empathy" for copper mining projects, and fortunately, Bluestem can assess the reaction of local citizens to the delays that beleaguered corporation is facing at a merciless bureaucracy.
In Thursday's paper, Doylene Voligny writes in An alternative to Superior Silica Sands:
It is my understanding that there was another proposal on the table besides the one by Superior Silica Sands.
Chisago County HRA/EDA was willing to purchase that piece of property outright, market it and sell it.
No worry about silica sand in the air, no excess traffic, less wear and tear on our roads. Sounds like a win-win situation.
This would help with our ESSBY debt. Am I missing something here? To me, it seems like a no-brainer.
I live on Highway 95. I thought I was used to truck traffic. Lately it has increased with trucks transporting sand to Tiller Corp. Add another 250+ trucks to our highway and the downtown area, and the county offer looks excellent.
Our narrow highway downtown, with no expansion available, is a disaster-waiting-to-happen.
Fall back and use common sense.
Superior Silica will be back at the table when permits are received in February or before. Don’t let this mistake be your legacy.
And Nick Tappe of North Branch writes in Silica sand facility would be a ‘nightmare’:
So here’s where my nightmare begins. I recently returned home from Tioga, North Dakota, where I worked for two years in the oil fields. I came back to North Branch to enjoy a safe and quiet life. With property values returning, and jobs more plentiful, things were looking good until I heard that the city wants to put a silica sand trans-loading station in my back yard. Hasn’t anyone here learned of the hazards? Are the citizens of Chisago County prepared to pay for roads that crumble under the weight of hundreds of semis hauling frac-sand? I can’t absorb 30-percent depreciation on my home as a result of this type of development in my neighborhood. . . .
Read the whole letter at the paper. Last week, in Superior Silica Sands is not the answer to city debt, North Branch resident Jeff Burnoski wrote:
It may not be skullduggery, but it feels that way.
Our city council and mayor want to solve the city’s debt problem that will require a huge balloon payment soon. They ask: Who will save us from the indebtedness that previous councils, mayors and city planners brought upon us when they foolishly purchased the ESSBY land?
Superior Silica Sands to the rescue! This giant corporation is willing to solve the council’s problem by dragging thousands of tons of sand across state lines into our town for shipment to fracking sites. Our council seems to have made up its mind to accept this solution.
The folks who live in North Branch, however, are not so keen to have microparticles of sand floating through town promoting silicosis, fibrosis and other lung diseases, especially in their children. They don’t want to see huge sand-hauling trucks clogging and damaging the city’s roads. They don’t want their property values to plummet. They don’t want to open the door to further harmful developments of the sand industry which will surely come to North Branch as it has to other towns who have signed away their rights to large fracking enterprises.
It seems the mayor and council have decided the safest way to proceed is to keep as low a profile as possible. No referendums. No town meetings. Let the public comment at council meetings be relegated to the end of the meetings after all the votes of the evening have been cast. Don’t supply information on health issues, don’t warn people of decreased property values and don’t publish in the local papers the timeline for closing on a deal that’s already been decided on.
And especially don’t tell the citizens what the city officials offered to Superior Silica Sands that persuaded the company to pursue negotiations with North Branch after it withdrew its offer because of public outcry.
And in the same issue, Barbara Burrington writes in Silica sand project should be put to a referendum:
If the council is so set on going against the majority that has objections to the silica sand project, then let it be put on a referendum so we can decide our futures. You are compounding a mistake on the ESSBY project by rushing in with another.
There is a disease called silicosis. It comes from exposure to silica sand. Are these the kind of jobs meant for North Branch? Once you have this disease, there is no reversal. If the sand escapes, and I’m sure Superior Silica Sand will tell us it can’t, what about the rest of the citizens?
I know the council, planning commission and the EDA have already made up their minds and are voting yes, but remember the rest of us and why you are in office – to protect and serve us.
The town is strangled with traffic now by the Tiller Sand trucks making right hand turns from left lanes. They weren’t supposed to come through North Branch. The intersection is not equipped to handle this – yet another costly mistake on the rebuilding of the intersection.
If this is such a good project, stop, think and reassess. All components should be in place before going further.
We’ve talked about a bypass for years, but it hasn’t happened. We’ve always put the cart before the horse.
We’re a small town, not a metropolis. This project is not a good fit. We don’t have room on our roads for expansion. Look around!
Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin has more about the friction that the creation of 12 local jobs is generating in Taylors Falls, North Branch tussle over sand trucks:
So far, more than 3,000 people have signed a petition to stop the trucks, but last week the North Branch City Council voted to approve the deal with Superior Silica. Earlier objections from residents, Taylors Falls officials and the St. Croix Falls Chamber of Commerce seemed to derail the project, and Superior sent letters saying they were no longer interested in doing business in Minnesota.
But North Branch officials reached out to the company, and persuaded them to seal the deal, according to Taylors Falls Mayor Mike Buchite.
“Superior [Silica] Sands said they wanted to be a good corporate citizen and were no longer interested in the property,” said Buchite. “I wonder what North Branch offered to get them to change their minds.” . . .
If the situation in North Branch and Chisago County is building empathy for the mining industry, Bluestem doesn't even want to know what disdain looks like.
Photo: A banner objecting to those trucks.
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