It’s no secret that Tiller Corporation’s sand fracking plant in North Branch, just south of Harris, has created quite the buzz among local residents and government officials.
Rush City has weighed in, too, particularly over the project’s impact on traffic on Co. Rd. 30. Will both train and trucks, tied with the project, interfere with Rush City residents wanting to use the county road as an alternative to nearby Interstate 35? Or could the trucks, at least, use the interstate to help keep the county road clear for public use?
These were just some of the questions posed and discussed by the Rush City Council Nov. 13.
Councilors further wondered of the proposed volume of trains that will come through the area, along with maximum versus realistic production outlooks in terms of phase one and future phases of the project.
City Administrator Amy Mell shared a letter dated Oct. 29 from Tiller to Harris Mayor Diane Miller and the city council. In the letter, which outlined a thorough description of the project, Tiller in part cleared the air on the traffic information presented last month to the Harris council and reported in this newspaper.
“The information supplied to you was based on hypothetical maximums, presenting a theoretical worst case scenario. It is not based on our actual business plan or even on what is operationally feasible,” wrote Tiller, which is based in Maple Grove.
Mell also handed out copies of a petition, authored by Rodney Larson, that addresses “environmental issues caused by the excessive truck and train traffic.” The purpose of the petition: to gather signatures and additional information for residents and neighbors of Harris who share concerns with regard to traffic impacts, along with air quality and noise concerns, that may arise from the project.
According to the Tiller Corporation letter, it is the holding company for a family of companies dedicated to providing high quality aggregates and hot mix asphalt to the construction industry. Having received many environmental awards, the letter continued, it has local mining facilities in Sunrise Township, Scandia and Franconia Township.
At its North Branch facility, the project involves industrial sand drying, screening and loading. The finished products will be marketed to the oil and gas industry, roof shingle manufacturers and the local community for livestock bedding, Tiller explained.
Also in its letter to Harris officials, the company noted its current plan has the North Branch plant operating 12 hours a day, six days a week. Under this scenario, about six to eight loaded trucks will pass through Harris per hour, which breaks down to one every 10 minutes on average.
“Even if we move to fully utilize our facility and operate the plant 20 hours per day, only 10-12 loaded trucks pass through Harris per hour — one every six minutes on average,” Tiller explained.
In addition, if the company were to expand the facility and add the second phase, thus doubling the plant’s capacity, the maximum number of required loaded trucks is 19 per hour or one every three minutes on average. Phase two also requires additional sources for feedstock, Tiller added, so the traffic will most likely come from a different area and never pass through the city of Harris.
Under its rail traffic outlook, Tiller’s current plan has it loading about 15 rail cars per day. If it were to maximize the hours for phase one, 25 cars would be loaded per day. “Our yard holds approximately 75 cars, and the railroad collects the cars when it is operationally efficient, not one car at a time,” the company said in its letter.
Under these scenarios, Tiller added, “the city of Harris may see one train moving through the city every two to three days to support our project. Even if we constructed Phase 2, our ability to fill rail cars maxes out at 50 cars per day. This means the railroad would perhaps move cars more frequently. The city of Harris may see a train once or twice per day.”
Election results canvassed
Councilors canvassed the city of Rush City 2012 general election results.
Mayor Nancy Schroeder congratulated incumbent council members Jamie Amundson (596 votes) and Michael Louzek (554 votes) for being re-elected to the council. She also congratulated her opponent, Dan Dahlberg, who won the mayoral race with 582 votes to Schroeder’s 329 tally.
The candidates will start their new terms on January 1, 2013.
City Administrator Amy Mell said voter turnout was good, with about 250 new registrants (consisting of new voters and people with new residencies), while at one point on election night there was concern over running out of ballots. As it turned out, enough was on hand.
To mow or not to mow
A 2012 unpaid mowing bill generated a stern exchange between the city council and an attorney representing a property owner who claims she shouldn’t be on the hook for the assessment.
First, the council held public hearings on unpaid water/sewer utilities, involving 20 property owners owing $3,484, collectively; unpaid fire calls, four property owners, $2,000; and unpaid mowing services, three property owners, $1,742, all for 2012.
Rumpel Family Farms is on the mowing assessment list for $1,172.50, which was taken to task by Josh Brekken from Johnson/Turner, Woodbury, who is representing Kelly Lindstrom and Rumpel Family Farms. The party owns multiple residential lots to the south of the Dollar General store and 4th Street.
At the public hearing, Brekken argued the city provided insufficient notice of its mowing intention last summer. He questioned the process of assessing fees per city ordinance, and he insisted the city was “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” in enforcing the ordinance based on its language.
Mell and councilors including Michael Louzek voiced their frustration with Lindstrom and her attorney’s claims. They said she has a history of “not taking care of her property,” while neighboring landowners have mowed her grass for her at times. Mell also produced copies of letters the city mailed to the property owner last summer to address the land’s long and uncared-for state.
There is a history here that you don’t know, Mell informed Brekken. That and in the case the property owner is not responsible for the unpaid mowing assessment, the city thus taxpayers will have to foot the bill because of one person, councilors added.
Regardless, Brekken stood his ground for his client, and the public hearing was closed.
Those with unpaid bills have until Dec. 17 to take care of their assessments, which will be certified by the council during its second meeting in December. At that time, councilors will also make a decision on Rumpel Family Farms and its mowing assessment.
• Santa Day 2012, organized by the Rush City Chamber of Commerce, is Saturday, Dec. 1. Santa will make appearances at Hairdo or Dye from 9-10 a.m.; Chucker’s Bowl, 10-11 a.m.; a location to be determined, 11 a.m. to noon; and the library from noon-1 p.m. Santa Store, Christmas carolers and other business-sponsored activities are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at the Rush City fire station.
• The second annual Chuckles for Chi-Chis Comedy Night, featuring comedians including Rush City’s own Priscilla Nelson, is Tuesday, Dec. 11 in The Spare Room at Chucker’s Bowl. The evening begins with Italian buffet and cocktails from 5-7 p.m., followed by comedy at 7 p.m. For tickets and more information on this holiday event (not appropriate for children under 16), call 320-358-0879 or e-mail email@example.com.