Glenwood City annexation vote stands between council, frac mine
Once again a full house greeted the Glenwood City Council last Monday evening as it attempted to approve a non-metallic mining agreement with Vista Sand of Texas. An evenly divided crowd exchanged comments regarding the frac sand mine issue for an hour preceding debate by the council.
Anticipating that an agreement might be approved, Vista’s top management attended, including R.J. Sikes, operating partner for Vista, and Vista attorney Anders Helquist, along with principal landowners Scott Teigen and the representatives of the Crosby family.
Teigen ignited vehement disagreement when he accused the school board of dragging its feet in the ongoing negotiations between the district and Vista to establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU). He also implied there had been efforts made by the board under the table to encourage parents to openly threaten to remove their students from the district should the sand mine become a reality.
“Basically the whole room erupted. It was crazy. I mean it was insane. A lot of those parents were in that room who have been vocal about pulling their children. His claims were the furthest thing from the truth,” said Chris Schone.
Among those notably upset by Teigen’s comments was District Superintendent Tim Emholtz, who attended the meeting following an hour-long closed-door session between attorneys for the school district and Vista Sand.
The council granted Emholtz permission to read a personal letter before the council and Vista representatives. Emholtz expressed frustration with Vista over its inability to reach an agreement with regard to the MOU after more than a year of negotiation. He characterized Vista’s legal efforts as insincere. He reiterated that major points of contention regarding student safety including air monitoring remain unresolved. In light of the council’s apparent intention to get an agreement in place regardless of the status of the MOU, and to provide the district with some leverage, he asked that specific language be placed in Section 18 of the impeding non-metallic mining agreement regarding resolution of the outstanding safety issues and if that language was not included, that the agreement be deemed invalid.
A motion brought by council member Crystal Booth to add an amendment featuring the text requested by Emholtz to the mining agreement was defeated 4-3 with Mayor John Larson casting the deciding vote.
Following the defeat of Booth’s amendment, a motion to table the mining agreement for 30 days was also defeated by a vote of 4-2.
At the urging of Vista’s representatives, the council then approved a motion to allow 30 days for both the school board and Vista’s representatives to meet in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the MOU. After 30 days, unless a mutual agreement has been reached, both sides will be asked to present their version of a MOU to the council. The council will have the option to pick one or the other or neither to make a permanent part of the final mining agreement.
The council then approved the non-metallic mining agreement with Vista Sand with the 30-day contingency by a vote of 4-2.
The council then turned its attention to the approval of a petition to directly annex into city limits the property owned by the Teigen and Crosby families targeted for the mine.
The property must fall under the jurisdiction of the city for the mine agreement to take effect. However, the annexation paperwork must be reviewed by the state before the city can take any action. The city submitted the required paperwork to the state in early April. Results from that review are expected back by April 27, preventing the council from taking any action at Monday’s meeting.
The state cannot block or stop an annexation, but it can make a recommendation as to whether the purpose for the annexation is in the best interest of a community. It is likely the council will act on the annexation petition at its next regularly scheduled meeting on May 12.
What makes the timing of that vote important is that the day after last Monday’s meeting, newly elected council members effectively take their seats on the council, so Ken Peterson will replace Schone. It is widely believed that Peterson, though not specifically opposed the mine, strongly objects to its location so close to the school. To pass, the annexation petition requires a two-thirds majority. A Peterson vote to delay or deny the annexation petition could split the council 3-3 preventing the Mayor’s vote from achieving the required majority.