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Bridgeport Plan Commission tables action on frac sand mine
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The Town of Bridgeport Plan Commission tabled the application for conditional use permit to allow a frac sand mine to be developed on agriculturally zoned land in the township.

Landowners Rodney and Sandra Marfilius, Lee and Joan Pulda, and Earl and Amber Pulda are seeking the conditional use permit that would let Pattison Sand create a 128-acre sand mine on their property.

Almost 70 people attended the Town of Bridgeport Plan Commission meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Because of the large number anticipated to attend the meeting, it had been moved to the South Fire Station on Vineyard Road to accommodate the larger crowd. Many in attendance intended to make one-minute statements under the public input item listed on an agenda posted earlier. However, the Bridgeport Plan Commission Chairperson Ryan Stram told those present for the meeting that the agenda had been changed on advice from the township’s legal counsel and public input would not be taken at the meeting.

Several people attending the meeting took exception to the change of not allowing public input. However, Stram insisted there would be no public input at the meeting.

The chairperson noted that public input had been taken by the township at previous meetings and might be allowed in the future. He stated it was on the advice of township’s legal counsel that the plan commission would not have public input and answer questions.

“Why was it (public input) on the agenda?” asked a member of the public attending the meeting.

“Things changed,” Stram said in response to the question.

Bridgeport Town Clerk Linda Smrcina, a member of the plan commission, explained that there would be no public input “at least not at this time.”

Stram indicated that he hoped the commission could take public input on the proposed frac sand mine at some point in the future and that it was his intention to do so.

Linda Smrcina explained that the township had hired an independent third party to do a study on the proposed frac sand mine. She noted the plan commission couldn’t act until the study was completed. 

A woman at the meeting asked if the ongoing study meant the township couldn’t act on the sand mine.

“Possibly,” the town clerk replied. She went on to explain the independent study would focus on the reclamation plan.

“Only the reclamation?” another woman in the audience asked.

“We’re not discussing it,” Stram interjected. “There is no public input.”

“I’m not giving public input,” the woman said. “I’m asking a question.”

“Having everybody asking questions will lead to public input,” Stram said.

Linda Smrcina moved to close the meeting and the motion was seconded by Stram and approved.

The plan commission meeting started late with a presentation by Marion Township Chairperson Robert Frye on the effects of a sand mine on that Grant County township and its residents.

The sand is being mined from an existing quarry in Marion Township, owned by Prairie Sand and Gravel, under an agreement with Pattison Sand, the same Iowa-based company that is seeking to create the sand mine in Bridgeport Township.

Frye began by telling members of the plan commission that Pattison Sand has been “more than co-operative” with the township. He also noted that any problems had been “well-addressed in a timely manner.”

In answer to question from the plan commission, the Marion Township Chairperson said that there are no complaints from residents at this point about the sand mine operation.

“You can go on the internet and find the worst of the worst,” Frye said. “This has never been anything like that. In fact it has been very good.

“At first people were really opposed to it, but once it happens it ain't as bad as everyone thought it would be,” according to Frye.

Stram noted that three members of the plan commission had toured the mine. He indicated a big concern that the commission members were hearing was about dust.

Frye said that there was no dust from the sand and that most of the dust came from the gravel roads.

Smrcina, the township clerk, said that she appreciated the perspective of someone who had it  (a sand mine operation) in their backyard.

Stram, questioned Frye about the potential for health problems caused by the sand mining operation.

“What about health concerns? Have you had anyone keel over?” Stram asked.

Frey said there had been no substantiated health problems. The Marion Township chairperson explained that when people were concerned about air quality at the Boscobel Schools, Pattison Sand had air quality tests conducted that showed there was “no problem at all.”

Linda Smrcina asked if there were any reported problems with neighbor’s livestock caused by the blasting and other mining operation?

“Absolutely none,” Frye said in response to Smrcina’s questions.

When the township clerk asked about problems with the truck traffic, Frye conceded that the sound of the beepers from backing trucks was particularly noisy in cold weather.

Frye also said there were complaints from residents about trucks use of jake brakes. The Marion Township chairperson said he went to Pattison Sand and said, “we can’t have it” and Kyle Pattison told the drivers not to use the jake brakes.

Frye also said that the company had worked to minimize the impact of lights being used in the sand mining operation on neighbors.

Stram asked Frye if there had been a devaluation of property adjacent to the sand mining operation and Frye said there had been no devaluation.

Frye also said that runoff from the operation was not a problem and that a retention pond was in place.

The township chairperson also told the commission that he had not seen sand on the highway being a problem. He noted with one of the town’s supervisors being a county highway employee he would expect feedback if that had been the case.

Plan commission member Ed Linder asked if the quarry had been there for a number of years. Frye said it had been there as long as he could remember.

Stram asked about wildlife and Stram confirmed that there were deer moving through the property and they were hunted and that a well-know high quality trout stream across the highway from he operation appeared to be fine.

As the presentation ended, a woman in the audience started to ask Frye a question but Stram informed her there would be no public input at that time.