Columbus pitches three-year hauling plan to sand miner

Permit negotiations continue with FL Contracting


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

Columbus City Council members at their April 9 meeting did not approve a new interim use permit to direct Forest Lake Contracting’s future sand mining on 36 acres at the John’s Black Dirt site.

Instead, city leaders proposed a plan that would allow the company more digging and hauling from the land than some residential neighbors would prefer, while not giving the company as much leeway as it had asked for earlier in the meeting.

The council expects company officials to respond to the offer this month.

“The ball is in your court,” Mayor Dave Povolny said.

Forest Lake Contracting will consider a maximum of 150 days for hauling sand over three years, with trucks running on Tulane and Vassar streets and 181st Avenue Northeast.

The company would not be bound to a yearly cap of days; rather, it could divide the 150 days as needed depending on the length and favor of each construction season. Company Vice President Bob Vollhaber said construction seasons in Minnesota can run for up to eight months with an early spring and late fall.

Their pits include an estimated 340,000 cubic yards of sand that could be used in road and bridge projects.

The year 2013 appeared to be strong for the company, based on their reports to the city. They had enough projects (including local work on Lexington Avenue) to haul 150,000 cubic yards of sand from the site and remove nearly one-third of the material that would have been in their pits 12 months ago.

Vollhaber has said they cannot expect calls for as much work every year. At a March 26 workshop with the council, he said the company could consider limiting hauling to a maximum of 120 days but that they would want to hold the rights through 2018 based on uncertainty over contracts each season. When a project is scheduled, Vollhaber said, the company typically has one month to prepare.

Council Member Denny Peterson asked Vollhaber at last week’s meeting to quote a preferred number of hauling days for the interim use permit, and Vollhaber said 190.

With the plan for 150 hauling days, Mayor Povolny said neither the company nor the people in the homes that the trucks would pass will likely be fully satisfied.

“I’m pretty sure the solution to this is the residents aren’t going to be happy, and you’re not happy,” the mayor told Vollhaber.

City Attorney Bill Griffith Jr. concurred that such a scenario is common in mediation.

“A good mediator will tell you that everybody goes home unhappy because that’s what happens with compromise,” he said.

Council members asked whether the company could remove the last remaining cubic yards of sand from the site by an earlier date, although the project climate may not call for that material. Vollhaber said it would not be economically feasible to stockpile the sand elsewhere.

Mayor Povolny asked Vollhaber if the company might consider selling its land rights to the city in order for the city to get a jump on preparing the site for future development.

Vollhaber did not consider ceasing excavation a possibility.

“We have got too much in to what we have there,” he said. “We need that material.”

Council members voted 4-1 to extend the plan of 150 hauling days over three years to Forest Lake Contracting. Peterson voted against the measure, saying that 150 days would be too limiting based on what he heard from the company.

Council Member Bill Krebs echoed the mayor’s sentiment about wanting to reach a solution.

“It’s been a long, long winter,” Krebs said.

Council Member Jessie Messina voted for the plan although he said he feels the company has not considered the site’s neighboring families in previous years.

Council Member Jeff Duraine voted with the majority despite one concern: The plan for now would postpone any hauling when schools are in session until after 9 a.m. to avoid conflicts with buses, and Duraine said he feels it is unreasonable to prohibit hauling through mid-morning.

The city’s plan would remove all options for Saturday hauling.

Other business

The council passed a resolution to vacate a western portion of Camp 3 Road, adjacent to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, and approved a payment of $1,800 for surveying to be handled by the Department of Natural Resources before ownership is transferred to the DNR.

A hearing on the proposed agreement will take place once the survey is complete in about three months.

The transfer would leave the city with only 105 feet of Camp 3 Road located west of Zodiac Street. The move would close off public access from a parking area around the bend of Camp 3 Road, where the city and Anoka County have received reports of illegal dumping and other suspicious activity.

In other news:

– The council agreed to welcome Anoka County highway officials May 14 for discussing a proposed roundabout for traffic control at Broadway Avenue and Kettle River Boulevard.

– The mayor and council awarded Columbus city pins to members of the Planning Commission, the Fall Fest committee and the Tree, Park and Public Works advisory boards for their volunteer service through the past year.

– The council approved traffic restrictions around Running Aces Harness Park in conjunction with a “Hit and Run 5K” event that the facility will host through the morning and afternoon of Saturday, May 10. City staff described the event as featuring a “Wipeout”-style course with obstacles known as “Duck or Dive” and “Slippery Slopes.” Event coordinators expect the 5K to draw up to 5,000 participants, each paying $35 to $45 for registration.