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Commissioners OK building three gravel pits

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Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners gave final approval Tuesday for three new gravel pits, but not before additional conditions were added to the conditional use permits.

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A condition on a gravel pit in Dovre Township will require that the pit owner, Richard Hanson, or the gravel pit operator, Duininck Bros. Inc., pay for damages that exceed the normal "wear and tear" of the township road.

Jim Larson, Dovre Township supervisor, told the commissioners that previous gravel mining in the area caused significant damage to a township road where gravel trucks traveled.

He said the township roads were built years ago and not designed to handle heavy truck traffic.

To prevent problems for the new gravel pit, the township officers proposed that a baseline technical assessment be conducted on the two township roads Duininck Bros. will be using. The township asked that damages that exceed the township's annual $4,500 expenditure to maintain the road for normal township use be paid by the users or owners of the pit.

Larson said the township "bears the responsibility" for maintaining roads for "normal" traffic, but that the gravel pit owners or operators should be responsible for damages beyond that. He said the necessary repairs may go beyond grading of gravel roads, which he said Duininck Bros. has done in the past.

Commission Chairman Richard Falk asked if that requirement would be applied countywide or if it would just pertain to the two Dovre Township roads and this particular gravel pit. He asked if other heavy users, like sugar beet farmers, should also be required to repair roads.

Commissioner Dean Shuck said farmers are long-term taxpayers in townships, but gravel mining operators can take the gravel out, "wreck the roads" and then leave.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson said gravel trucks can "destroy" narrow township roads. He said the township was making a "reasonable" request.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said roads are made for public use and he would "have no part" of micromanaging the county. "When will we be more of a police state?" he asked. "We're tending a little more towards a bureaucracy." He said the county planning and zoning staff shouldn't be asked to do more enforcement activities.

Madsen agreed to support the condition as long as the township accepted some responsibility and that the baseline study be required.

The Commissioners also approved a 30-year conditional use permit for a 157-acre gravel pit in Gennessee Township on a 3-2 vote, with Falk and Shuck voting no. Falk said the reclamation plan should have limited Duininck Bros. to operating 20 acres at a time, instead of 40 acres.

The commissioners also required Duininck Bros. to post appropriate signs at the pit to prevent trespassing.

Sheryl Downes, who lives near the new pit and an existing one, told the commissioners the pit is constantly being used by people who drive dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles. The site is often used as a shooting range, she said, and because the site isn't properly posted, the Sheriff's Department can't enforce no-trespassing laws and won't respond to complaints.

County Attorney Boyd Beccue said recent legislation allows gravel pits to post signs against trespassing and gives the same protection given to construction sites. It also gives authorities the ability to enforce the law. The signs, however, must meet state requirements.

Environmental assessment worksheets had been conducted on the gravel pits in Dovre and Gennessee townships, with a negative declaration, which means no further environmental review was necessary.

A two-year conditional use permit was also approved for a small gravel pit in Irving Township that will be used for a project on County Road 2.

In other action the commissioners:

- Following a closed meeting, agreed to authorize Beccue to continue negotiations with Raymond Pierskalla regarding compensation for two acres of land on a three-acre site that was condemned by the county for use in building the new bypass ramps onto Willmar Avenue.

- Approved a $20 annual increase in the service availability charge for the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District. The increase is less than expected because of growth in the system.

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