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10/23/2012 8:39:00 AM
Fate of mining oversight committee in doubt
Plan is to abolish panel but others aren't convinced

Marcus Nesemann

Hoping to put an end to confusion over whether mining is still on the table in Oneida County, Supervisor Paul Dean introduced a resolution at last week’s board meeting that would remove language regarding the now-defunct Mining Oversight/Local Impact Committee from the General Code of Oneida County.

Following a robust discussion, the board approved a motion to send the issue back to the forestry committee for further consideration.

But to get to that point, board members kicked around Dean’s resolution that was meant to clarify just where the county stood on the issue of mining.

The mining oversight committee had been inactive since the county board voted in August to abandon mining as a policy goal.

“The reason why I brought this to attention is that, for those that don’t know, we don’t have mining in Oneida County — it’s a dead issue,” Dean said. “So, since we don’t have mining, I don’t feel we should have the mining oversight committee language, which we do have.”

Should the issue of mining be raised again, Dean said the language could always be reinserted.

“Without the language here, it means whoever wants to start this up again will have to reinsert the language and restart the committee, which makes it just a little bit, maybe harder to have another committee,” Dean said.

Another goal of the resolution, Dean said, is to assure constituents that the issue of mining in Oneida County is, in fact, dead.

“Every other time I read the paper, it looks like we’re trying to get some kind of mining here and I think we are confusing people ... and that’s why I want to bring this to a head, as much as I can, and say, ‘hey, we don’t need to have the ordinance for this committee,’” Dean said.

Supervisor Tom Rudolph said the resolution is not needed.

“It seems to me that this resolution ... is completely unnecessary at this point,” Rudolph said. “We don’t have an active committee at this time because the county board chose not to proceed with the process of getting bid proposals and so on. I don’t think it does any harm to anybody to leave this on the books in case there is a future interest in mining.”

And with those statements, the question that has been the source of hushed whispers throughout the courthouse since the August vote finally came to a head — what did the August vote mean?

Was the vote to end discussions on mining in the town of Lynne, where there’s a mineral deposit mining companies had expressed an interest in exploring, or across the entire county?

According to the wording of the resolution itself, it would appear it was for the entire county.

Lines 14 and 15 of the resolution state, “the Oneida County Board of Supervisors needs to make a decision with regards to continuing to explore options related to metallic mining in Oneida County.”

The word “Lynne” does not appear in the resolution but there are two mentions of the “project.”

While they discussed Dean’s resolution, board members turned to corporation counsel Brian Desmond for clarification of the August vote.

“The only proposal we were, as a county, considering was the Lynne project — I haven’t heard of any other proposals for any other portion of Oneida County at this time, for metallic mining,” Desmond said. “So, I guess, in the grand scheme of things it kind of did both because that was the only proposal that was on the table ... so without any proposals in front of us, or any information, I would say it killed the proposed project in the town of Lynne and, at this point in time, there are no other projects up for consideration.”

That statement coincides with what Desmond told the board in August when supervisors asked him what a yes or no vote would mean.

At that time, Desmond said if the resolution were to fail, mining would “no longer proceed as a policy goal for Oneida County.”

Questions were also raised Tuesday regarding the fate of the leftover money in the committee account from the Mineral Resources Fund. The money is a holdover from previous mining initiatives in Oneida County in the 1980s and early 1990s. After those efforts came to an end, it was decided the leftover money should be used to benefit future generations.

According to Oneida County Finance Director Margie Sorenson, the committee previously agreed that the money should be returned to the Mineral Resources Fund.

Some supervisors, however, were unaware of the committee’s decision and wanted to know what would happen to the money if the board passed Dean’s resolution.

Supervisor Jerry Shidell ended the discussion by making a motion to send the matter to the forestry committee for further discussion and clarification. The motion was seconded by Jack Sorensen.

It passed with supervisors Romelle Vandervest, Billy Fried, Jack Martinson, Bob Martini, Candy Sorensen, and Dean casting dissenting votes.

Marcus Nesemann may be reached at marcus@rivernewsonline.com.

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