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Hiring decision remains on the table

RED WING — For the third time, Goodhue County Board took a pass Tuesday evening on whom to hire for a study involving silica sand. The issue remains tabled until the March 20 meeting.

The county's silica sand study group, which was created last fall after a one-year moratorium on silica mining was adopted, recommended in early February that the county hire Summit Envirosolutions to conduct various forms of research pertaining to the growing silica mining industry.

However, the county board balked at the hire because Summit has past business ties with Windsor Permian, an Oklahoma-based company that's purchased 195 acres in Goodhue County for a silica sand mine.

During the previous meeting, the county board instructed staff members to approach Summit about concessions that would alleviate potential conflict of interest issues. Staff members reworded the request for proposals to say Summit would provide the county with information to be used in developing a new ordinance — eliminating the company entirely from the decision-making process — but Summit declined a request to remain uninvolved in silica dealings in Goodhue County for a period of one year after the moratorium is lifted. Instead, Summit agreed to create no local business ties only while the moratorium is in place.

The study group will discuss the matter again at its March 14 meeting, though options appear limited. Just two bids were submitted in response to the request for proposals, and the other was deemed insufficient by county staff.


Declining Summit's bid would mean the county either develops its own information or creates a new request for proposals. The latter option would likely mean extending the county's moratorium. However, the state Legislature is considering a bill to limit local authority on interim ordinances.

"I'm sure we can write an ordinance without any experts, but we want to make sure we have something that stands up (in court)," Goodhue County commissioner Richard Samuelson said.

Goodhue County is one of five counties in southeastern Minnesota that have placed moratoriums on silica sand mining. Houston and Fillmore counties adopted one-year moratoriums last week. Wabasha County's interim ordinance runs through the fall. Winona County approved a three-month moratorium in January.

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