LETTER: What has the Frac Sand Study Committee accomplished?
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 4:53 AM
Having attended the "Special Meeting: Review of Draft Mining Ordinances," at which the Frac Sand Study Committee was present on Feb. 12, I would like to report on my observations.
While some of these observations were made in the early stages of the meeting, the bulk of them occurred in an approximate five-minute public comment period near the end of it.
1. Confusion as to who was leading this meeting versus who was in charge of the study committee. Who is managing and overseeing the process(es) as a whole?
2. Confusion as to which version of revised ordinances was being used in this meeting; not everyone had the same version.
3. Public minutes of the study committee at www.co.houston.mn.us/Frac_Sand.aspx have not been posted since Oct. 29, 2012, even though a meeting was scheduled for Nov. 5. This means that minutes have not been posted for nearly four months of the 12-month study committee period.
4. Persons present did not understand the meaning of the word "directive" as in, directions that they MUST follow as directed by the commissioners.
6. Does the study committee have a charge? Why is it revising ordinances if it is supposed to be studying frac sand mining? How are the two related or unrelated?
7. Confusion as to what the study committee has accomplished in one year. It has dealt with some aspects of frac sand mining, but apparently not health, tourism or quality of life, and it is still struggling with water issues.
8. The commissioners and most members present did not participate as much as might have been wished. Is everyone up to speed on what is happening?
9. It appears possible that townships may be forced to assume responsibilities for which they are financially unequipped.
10. It became clear that the wrong version of the ordinances had been sent out.
This became clear because of the previously noted confusion AND because an audience member, who had been attending meetings regularly, questioned why something that had been decided had not been included in the version under review.
As discussion ensued, it also became apparent that there was general confusion as to whether that version HAD been approved or not.
The above points call into question the following:
1. Who is overseeing the study committee and process?
2. Is the study committee following "directives" given to it?
3. The competence of the study committee.
4. The efficiency of the study committee.
5. The transparency of the study committee.
6. Does the right arm know what the left arm is doing?
7. If it is not taking or publishing minutes, is the study committee complying with the law?
In short, what I saw on my first time of attending a county meeting related to the frac sand issue, as a relatively uninvolved outsider, shocked me.
I challenge the study committee to prove to the public that it is undertaking a democratic process that is in the good-faith interest of all citizens of Houston County, and that county employees are not wasting public tax dollars.
I also challenge the public to become more educated and engaged in this process.
On whatever side of the fence one stands in this important debate, every citizen in Houston County deserves to trust in their elected officials and county employees.
Finally, I would like to thank those who are engaged and doing their best in this long and complicated process.