In following case history, the Winneshiek Board of Supervisors will not need a public hearing to pass a resolution regarding a moratorium on new permits for frac-sand mining in the county.
That's according to County Attorney Andy Van Der Maaten, who has been advising the Board on the issue.
At a Tuesday meeting, Supervisor Dean Thompson explained he had spoken with County Attorney Andy Van Der Maaten following a recommendation from the Winneshiek County Planning and Zoning Commission that the Board enact an 18-month moratorium on the issue.
The P & Z recommendation came following a public hearing during which more than 30 attendees spoke on the matter.
Thompson said he was "certainly inclined to follow the advice of the county attorney ... The public hearing was extensive and lots of people spoke. We also had a public hearing on the comprehensive plan ... Unless there is new information or issues in the last two weeks ..."
Although the P & Z recommended an 18-month moratorium, Thompson said he had three reasons to suggest a 24-month timeframe.
"First, there are the possibilities for us to have two studies by the University of Iowa, one on public health issues and the second a study of economic issues," said Thompson, explaining the studies would not be concluded until the end of the 2015 spring semester.
His second reason was a 24-month moratorium would be taken up by the Board following the 2014 supervisors' election and after consideration of the 2015-2016 budget.
"The third reason is we want the county to seek from the attorney general how the county might seek exaction (road-use) fees. Minnesota and Wisconsin have these in place to cover the cost of road destruction, frequency and single-axle loads. This industry is having a disproportionate impact on roads and taxes," said Thompson.
Supervisor Floyd Ashbacher added, "On the other hand, we could extend the moratorium if the studies weren't complete. If we had to."
"Or shorten," responded Thompson.
"We can, by resolution, end a moratorium at any time, if we've done our due diligence."
Ashbacher asked Thompson if Allamakee County has expressed an interest in partnering on the University of Iowa studies.
"Dennis (Karlsbroten) and I have been part of road trips with Allamakee County supervisors, Planning and Zoning and the County Zoning Administrator," said Thompson.
"We've talked about that informally and they are open to that."
County Auditor Ben Steines suggested the Board could ask the county attorney to draft a resolution to implement a moratoroium without specifying a timeframe. The Board could decide on the timeframe at its next meeting.
"To me, the timetable isn't the most urgent. My thing is infrastructure, whether you're hauling gravel, diamonds, frac sand or hog manure, infrastructure is the key to any decision made. If we need to get some time to get the attorney general's opinion on it ..." said Board Chair John Logsdon.
"Minnesota and Wisconsin can slap on a 24-cent loaded mile-per-ton (fee). Iowa state code does not give us that option," he added, referring to the fact that Iowa has no provision for a road-use tax.
Logsdon said the Board could, at any time, modify the duration of the moratorium, if needed.
Logsdon also complimented Supervisors Thompson and Dennis Karlsbroten on the amount of work they have done researching the issue in adjacent counties and states.
"I must say, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Karlsbroten have done a remarkable job with regard to due diligence. No one can say they have not done due diligence to the nth degree," said Logsdon.
"To me, when all the stones are unturned, and there is nothing left to contribute, it will be time to make the appropriate documentation on this issue," said Logsdon.
When Karlsbroten invited Kurt Oakes of Olson Explosives to weigh in on the matter, Thompson stopped him.
"As a matter of order, I prefer our discussion to be amongst the Board. We've had ample opportunity to hear from everyone," said Thompson, to which the other Board members concurred.
Attorney Steve Belay, representing the county attorney's office, said his office would likely provide two or three proposed resolutions, which the Board could either go with or modify.
"My concern is that the moratorium doesn't put any restrictions on current operations of aggregate," said Supervisors Mark Kuhn.
"Protecting existing business is key," added Board Chair John Logsdon.
Ashbacher added whatever timeframe the Board decides upon for a moratorium, he will expect things to progress in a timely manner.
"Whatever we adopt and for however long, everyone should be assured we're not going to be sitting around. We will have a schedule of issues to be studying. We will need volunteers and we have some already. I would like all of those efforts to be Board led, rather than by another committee," he said.