Social media impacts proposed sand mine
Faulks Bros., Iola Car Show urge residents to attend public hearings
By Holly Neumann
A proposal by Faulks Bros. Construction (FBC) seeking a conditional use permit for non-metallic mining on the Iola Car Show (ICS) grounds has sparked concerns in both Iola and Scandinavia.
Jon Faulks, president of FBC, and Joe Opperman, executive director of ICS, feel that some of those concerns are a result of social media spreading misinformation to the public.
“What we have seen play out recently in social media related to the application for this project is a great example of exactly why public hearings are such an important part of the democratic and local governmental process,” said Opperman. “It is understandable that immediate neighbors and community members will have questions and concerns about this proposed project. That is exactly why it’s so important to have the opportunity to gather in the same room for discussion, questions and answers.”
He feels that social media can cause public doubt and suspicion, unsubstantiated claims, questions that create a sense of wrongdoing and in this case misinformation that generates fear.
“We have tried to approach this project the proper way,” Opperman said. “We worked with FBC to send out letters to the immediate neighbors of this project as a courtesy, knowing full well that through the normal process of permitting everyone would be made aware and have an opportunity to speak, ask questions and get answers.
Need for public hearings
“That process has been derailed and overtaken by a few who thought it was OK to make this a battle of marketing rather than pursuit of that facts,” Opperman added. “That is unfortunate and ugly. I hope it will ultimately serve as an example of why the public hearing process matters and exists.”
Through this process an informed decision can be made, he said.
“Even if we don’t all agree, at the end of the day, it’s our job to make the best decisions we can and be good stewards of the important business we’re responsible for overseeing, for the benefit of the community,” Opperman said. “While everyone may not agree with all of those decisions, we are charged with doing what we think is best under the circumstances.”
He feels that the biggest misconception is that it will be a noisy, dusty operation 12 hours a day, 365 days a year for more than a decade.
“Although all our sites are permitted for year-round work, in reality this is Wisconsin and the ground freezes making it difficult to work,” Faulks said. “Equipment isn’t fond of running in freezing temperatures either. Typical operating hours are 7 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Production is typically 12-15 weeks but that can vary.”
Faulks also addressed equipment use and blasting concerns at the sites.
“The majority of the time it will be a power screen and a loader to feed the screen,” he said. “Stripping off the topsoil layers and building berms requires different equipment on the front end and there are occasions when you may have to bring in other equipment.”
While their permits do allow for blasting, it will most likely not occur.
“The only blasting we’ve done in the past is at our limestone quarry,” Faulks said. “We’ve never had to do blasting in a sand and gravel pit. When we blast at the quarry, neighbors are notified in advance so they are aware.”
Faulks said all loads will be tarped when being hauled away.
Some tree removal is involved in the project.
“We will reclaim the property as regulations require,” Faulks said. “Planting trees on a property is the decision of a property owner.”
The opposition has also expressed concerns about a decline in property values.
“There have been several studies performed around the country in the last 30-plus years which looked in detail at the correlation between nonmetallic operations and property values,” said Mark Weinreis, FBC Sand and Gravel Division. “Each of the studies revealed that there was no consistent relationship between nonmetallic mining and property values. Yes, there were some very specific cases where property values had a slight decline. There are also cases where property values increased because of the change.”
Weinreis feels that property values in general are not a one-size-fits-all topic.
“There are multiple factors that go into this topic, with supply and demand being a key factor,” said Weinreis. “Every nonmetallic mine has its own uniqueness and should not solely be compared to others when pertaining to this topic. There are no credible studies which support the claims of widespread declines in property values associated with nonmetallic mining, the pure lack of evidence confirms the concern is unsubstantiated.”
In the past, Opperman has stated that the impact of the mining is meaningful. That it does not even come close to replacing the show income, but reminded everyone that the ICS is one bad weather forecast away from a crisis each year.
That statement has some of the opposition questioning the ICS’s recent purchase of a property on Keating Lake Road for $86,000.
“There are a handful of neighboring properties that would be a benefit to our business to own, and one of them became available through sheriff’s sale,” Opperman said. “We bought it.”
“The statement previously made of ‘we are always only a couple days of rain away from serious problems’ has been misconstrued by some to suggest that we are nearly extinct or in financial turmoil,” he said. “That is not the case. The business model of the ICS relies very heavily on income generated in a single week to provide for the entire years’ worth of operation. That is a unique challenge that carries obvious risk.”
FBC will create a new Facebook page for people to find the answers they are looking for. This site will be called “Iola Pit Answers.”
The next public hearing will take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Scandinavia.