Oneida County Supervisor Gary Baier is sticking to statements he made last month regarding his desire to hold a countywide referendum on mining.
During a planning and zoning committee meeting in September, the Nokomis supervisor said he was going to attempt to get a mining-related referendum question on the ballot for the April 2013 election.
“I will be, if nobody else does, I will be coming forward with a referendum for next April for all of the taxpayers in Oneida County to speak on behalf of whether Oneida County should consider mining or not,” Baier said at the meeting. “I think that’s important for us all to know. Then we get the true numbers. 39,000 people, not 60 or 70 people, 39,000 people.”
Baier said some people have misinterpreted his statement and believe that his intent is to have a binding referendum that would reverse the county board’s August decision to abandon mining as a policy goal. What he is actually looking for is an advisory referendum, he told The Lakeland Times.
“It wouldn’t be a binding referendum,” Baier said. “What it is would be to do a referendum of all of the taxpayers who are voting in next April’s election, because it’s too late to get it in now for the November election, to see how the people feel about mining in Oneida County.”
Baier said he simply wants to know the opinion of all voters in the county on the issue of mining.
“A referendum, you can either approve it or deny it. You don’t have to do what the referendum results are, it’s only advisory. That’s all I want. I want the opinion of the public, of the voting people. They’re the ones paying the bills,” Baier said.
Since the August board decision, there have been questions about whether the board vote was to abandon the possibility of mining a deposit in the town of Lynne or to reject any kind of mining anywhere in the county.
Baier said he felt the August decision was only about Lynne and he wants the opinion of the public on pursuing mining in other parts of Oneida County.
“We have other deposits that are out there,” Baier said. “Mining is going to happen in the state somewhere, some way, somehow no matter what people say or do or try to do. It’s only a matter of time. Now, if it’s something we shouldn’t do at all, then let’s hear from all of the people, not just 50, 60 people.”
Still, Baier admits that given the August decision, it could be tough to sell the board on a referendum.
“Could we do it? Yes. Is the county board going to allow it? Probably not,” Baier said.
If the county board votes his referendum idea down, Baier said it would be time for the county to look at other avenues for revenue and economic growth.
“[If the county board decides against a referendum] then we need to move on with Wi-Fi, working with the federal foresters and doing proper management of their lands so we can create some jobs and more recreation up here and move on,” Baier said.
According to Oneida County Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond, Baier would have to get referendum language approved by the board and submitted to the county clerk 70 days prior to the election date. He will also need a fellow supervisor to second the resolution when it is presented to the board. Without a second, the board would not be able to discuss the matter or vote on it.
The election is April 2, 2013, so the clerk would have to receive the referendum language by Jan. 22.
There is a county board meeting scheduled for Jan. 15, that which would be Baier’s last chance to get a referendum resolution approved in time.
Marcus Nesemann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.