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County Board Report: Blasting notice creates plenty of heat

Fri, Mar 28th, 2003
Posted in Features

A newly imposed 10 day blasting notice stirred up local gravel pit owners and contractors causing them to come before the Fillmore County Board on Tuesday to express their displeasure. In the past, it has been left to the neighboring landowners to ask gravel pit operators that they be notified of a scheduled blasting. This has changed.

The 10 day notice for blasting is almost impossible for us, Jeff Quarud, a local operator, stated.

We never know hardly two days in advance, reiterated Steve Beech of Milestone, a branch of Mathy Construction.

People in my area want to know, explained First District Commissioner Helen Bicknese. A quarry along County Road 7 has been a sensitive issue for some time.

Commissioner Randy Dahl pointed out that contractors arent looking at a specific date within the 10 day period, but simply noting that blasting will be done sometime during that period. The current policy requires contractors to send out an annual notification asking landowners within a half mile radius of a pit if they wished to be notified when blasting will be done. If there isnt a response, its assumed the contractor doesnt have to notify that neighbor of an upcoming event.

Beech pointed out that the new policy has the potential to encourage more spectators at a blasting, including kids. This creates more of a liability for the company. Lyle Sorum of rural Lanesboro said he had to notify an out of state landowner. When he did so, the owner showed up to watch the event.

As the contractors continued to tell the board how difficult it is to determine a blasting date, Commissioner Dahls normally mild manner took a back seat as he recalled an incident where 400 tons of blasted stone had created such a dust problem that it was called in. The contractor apparently pushed off liability onto the party that had bought the gravel and was hauling it away.

Dont sit here and tell me you dont know 10 days ahead of time, fumed Dahl. He went on to say that because of some individuals lack of responsibility, rules must be made to monitor such actions.

When the board asked who had sent out notifications, the contractors said no one had complied yet, and that they had hoped to change the boards mind. This was the wrong answer to an already sensitive board.

Chairman Marc Prestby and Bakke pointed out that the policy is already in place and not to comply can result in a conditional use permit being pulled. Beech said there is a question to when annual is, as their blasting season hasnt started yet.

What has changed in the county in the last 20 years as to why the county is changing regulations? asked Sorum. What will the public do differently to prepare for a blast? He said hed been through thunderstorms that rocked his house more than a blasting. Sorum also noted that there are 27 permitted quarries now, whereas in the past there had been as many as 47.

We know we need the rock and sand, said Bakke. The difference now is that there are more complaints being addressed at the Planning Commission than there used to be. Bakke noted that back in July, the notification period had been set at three days, but when the policy came before the board the number was changed to 10. It was also pointed out to contractors that it had been the boards intent not to have contrators come in to renew permits as often.

I think the solution (for now) is to send notifications, Bakke said. If there arent any responses, or perhaps only a handful, there really isnt a problem for the contractors.

Commissioner Dahl conceded that perhaps the policy should be sent back to the Planning Commission. But Bakke noted that the policy had been sent there twice before and was changed at the boards discretion. For now, the policy stands.

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