From: Wayne Valentine,
Winona County Board Chair
As a member of the Winona County Board of Commissioners it has been my policy to refrain from replying to criticism levied at me by members of the public.
However, two recent letters to the editor written by Jane Cowgill and Margaret Walsh of Winona have caused me to abandon that policy because their comments need clarification.
In their letters the writers implied that I was pleased that citizens would no longer be contacting me to share their thoughts related to silica mine issues and that I was miffed because citizens do contact me.
The truth is that during the past several months I have spent countless hours responding to telephone calls from citizens throughout Winona County. I have read hundreds of emails, attended several public hearings and reviewed numerous communications from the public...both pro and con...related to silica sand mining issues.
I have also personally viewed proposed mine sites and processing facilities in the county and the city of Winona. In addition, I have traveled to Chippewa Falls and Barron Counties in Wisconsin to view mining operations being conducted there and met with various officials from those jurisdictions to better educate myself on the issues that are related to silica sand mining.
At our April 2 regular board meeting I stated that I had received numerous calls from citizens living in Utica, Lewiston, Stockton, Knopp Valley, Gilmore Valley and from individuals who live near St. Mary’s University.
I stated that many of those individuals indicated that they were not necessarily opposed to the proposed Nisbit mine but were very concerned about the route that was to be used to transport the materials from the mine to the city of Winona. The majority of the callers favored transportation of the materials on Interstate 90 and Highways 61 and 43 to Winona. They indicated that they were planning to contact all commissioners so I assume that all board members received the same message. Many of the callers who left voice mail messages at my home thanked me for calling them back, which is a good indication that I did make a concerted effort to receive feedback from the public, contrary to Ms. Cowgill’s and Ms. Walsh’s assertions that I was miffed when citizens contacted me to express their opinions. Since the day I was elected I have solicited input from the public related to all county issues and will continue to do so.
In addition, it should be noted that at the April 2 meeting, I, as the board chair, with the approval of the other commissioners, extended the time normally allotted for our public comment segment to allow all who wanted to speak to have an opportunity to make comments related to the Nisbit mine issue.
It was during that public comment session that Tom Rowekamp suggested that he might be willing to change the haul route in an effort to alleviate the concerns expressed by the public. Later in the meeting I stated that I was pleased that Mr. Rowekamp was considering changing the route because it was addressing the changes that citizens had been lobbying for.
I also agreed with Commissioner Pomeroy that no matter what route was used it was certain to upset others who would not want the materials transported through their areas. I stated that in my opinion it did seem to make more sense for the materials to be transported on the Interstate and state highway routes since they were better designed to handle truck traffic. For an accurate account of my comments I encourage all who read this to refer to an article that appeared in the April 3 edition of the Winona Post.
Prior to voting on the issue of whether or not an EIS should be required for the Nisbit mine site, I stated that many of the persons who contacted me supporting the EIS did not live in close proximity to the mine or the proposed haul route. Many indicated that they had been told to call me but would not reveal who had instructed them to make the call.
As a candidate for the board I made a personal decision to not accept any campaign contributions. My campaign was paid for and supported by use of personal funds and my wife Sandy and I were the only individuals who served on my campaign committee. I have always voted with the best interests of all Winona County citizens in mind and will continue to do so.
Those attending the State of the cities’ presentation hosted by the city of Winona heard me state that while there has been some disagreement among commissioners on issues related to silica sand mining, as a group we are united in the fact that if and when silica sand is mined in Winona County, it will be done in a safe and responsible manner.
In conclusion, if at any time citizens have concerns about any issues, I assure you that I will not be miffed or displeased if you contact me. I can be reached at 507-454-2762 or by e-mail: email@example.com My mailing address is 218 Whitten Street, Winona, Minnesota 55987.
I am pleased to serve the citizens of Winona County and will continue to use my common sense approach when voting on any and all issues.