A lawsuit may be in the works for Cochrane-Fountain City School District and Glacier Sands. Opponents' "No frac sand at C-FC School" bumper stickers have not yet worn off, but Glacier Sands, the operator of several Buffalo County mines, is hoping County Board members will reconsider its proposal for a rail loading terminal next to the school. In turn, School Board President Ed Callahan said the board will meet in closed session on Wednesday to meet with its attorneys "to discuss our response to this latest application."
The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law allows a local government body to meet privately with its legal counsel to discuss "strategy to be adopted by the body with respect to litigations in which it is or is likely to become involved." Without a current or impending lawsuit, the School Board would not be allowed to hold such a meeting.
Superintendent Tom Hiebert said that the school is not currently engaged in a suit, but declined to comment when asked if a suit was likely. It is unclear whether the school district is considering suing Glacier Sands, if school officials fear the mining company may sue the district, or if the district intended to hold a closed meeting outside of the Open Meetings Law provision for lawsuit strategy.
Rezone would allow
CUP for terminal
Texas-based Glacier Sands is seeking to change the zoning of the 350-acre "Starkey site" next to C-FC School from agricultural zoning to industrial zoning. That would allow the company to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to have a truck-to-rail transloading terminal. The application for rezoning specifically indicates that intent.
The County Board denied a CUP request for the transloading facility in 2012, after the School Board and many local residents spoke against the facility — especially the truck traffic it would generate near the school. The district hired an outside attorney to help fight the proposal in 2012. Hiebert said that the district may seek specialized legal help again. County staff could not confirm whether permitting a transloading facility in an agricultural zone was allowed by the zoning ordinance. At the time, many argued that a zone change was legally required for the CUP.
The latest proposal calls for building a bridge over Bensel Pond across from Highway 88 at its T-intersection terminus with Highway 35. That would keep the 250 truckloads proposed per day off of Highway 35.
One School Board member expressed concern over the traffic. Callahan noted that the board has spoken out in the past against "an industrial facility across the street from the school on health and safety grounds, and with a concern for maintaining a productive educational environment at our facility." Hiebert said he could not comment specifically on the new proposal at this time, but commented, "Are we concerned about the fact that there's something going on across the road? Absolutely."