By Barbie Porter
The Vergas Planning Commission heard several concerns from residents regarding the gravel pit in city limits.
Mark Sand & Gravel owns the gravel pit and is required to obtain the annual permit from the city. The first step of the permitting process is a public hearing hosted by the planning commission.
During the hearing, residents were invited to express concerns. Issues raised included: excessive smoke from the plant, hours of operation extending beyond 7 p.m. deadline and questions if reclamation requirements were being followed and the if the fees associated with the permit were enough.
The permit and ordinance fees are requirements that the city had in place. Some of those items listed included:
• A $7,000 fee for the city to use for annual inspections and allowing inspections to take place.
• A $50,000 performance bond.
• Requirement of certificate of general liabilities insurance provided to the city.
• Naming the city as the additional insurer.
• Limiting mining and plant operations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Sweeping gravel from the road way on a regular basis.
• Meeting Minnesota Pollution Control Agency best management practices and meeting minimum requirements set forth by the state agency.
• Construct screen berms to screen operation from public view and further limit noise emissions.
• Water exposed area not covered with permanent vegetation during periods weather conditions generate dust. Roads in the mine area are also to be sprayed to control dust.
City engineer Scott Kolbinger recapped the results from the last inspection, which was conducted in spring 2020. He explained there were a few violations. Two had to do with setbacks and two more had to do with improper grades, all of which were along the abutting road. The area in use was also to be no more than 5 acres. Kolbinger stated the aerial drone image, which can be subjective, suggested the area in use was 5.1 acres. Kolbinger added the spring survey for 2021 had yet to be done.
Jeff Hatlewick, vice president of administration for Mark Sand & Gravel, spoke on behalf of the company. He explained the mining operation is moving away from the houses, and their goal is to have the plant sit at the bottom of the pit below grade to reduce noise and what operations those living near the plant will see. He explained there will be a hole there while the pit is active, but the company is moving toward the middle and away from the road.
Hatlewick estimated the pit would be in operation for another 25 years, but the annual use of the pit depends on the jobs the company is awarded.
He addressed the reclamation and slope infractions. The area in question identified was stated to along the bank of along East Looney Lane (Otter Tail County Highway 35). Hatlewick said the area is being filled in with waste material, or sand, and that action will continue until the required slope is met. At that point the material would be packed down, top soil added and grass planted.
Hatlewick explained the area had been mined prior to Mark Sand & Gravel purchasing the site. The slope infractions were in place when the pit was purchased, so they are trying to correct a problem that has been there for some time.
As for the amount of work to be done this summer at the Vegas site, that has yet to be determined. Hatlewick stated the company has secured two newer sites. One is closer to Frazee and the other, Menahga, and that may have a factor on usage as well.
The commission closed the public hearing and then agreed to recommend the city council approve the permit, as well as review the fees associated with the contract to ensure they are on par with what is expected.