(TOWN OF EXCELSIOR, Wisconsin) — A quarry that ceased operations after its permit expired last year will reopen, despite the concerns of neighbors and local government officials.
Sauk County Board of Adjustment members approved a five-year permit Thursday morning for the operation of Union Pacific Railroad Co.’s Pink Lady Quarry.
The permit for the quarry expired in February 2007, and 14 employees were laid off.
Union Pacific will have to accept bids from companies that want to manage the quarry when it reopens. And that worries 40 town residents who signed a petition against authorizing the permit.
Homeowner Laurie Hasenbalg, who spoke during a public hearing Thursday morning, said she had no problems with Martin Marietta Materials, Inc., the company that has operated the quarry since 1983. But she has heard horror stories about previous operators, she said.
Union Pacific wants to dig an additional 80 feet of rock out of the quarry, but there are no plans to expand the quarry horizontally, said Eric Hansen of Pinnacle Engineering, a Minnesota firm that submitted the permit application for Union Pacific.
Hansen and a groundwater expert who appeared on behalf of Union Pacific said the vertical digging will not affect groundwater for homeowners in the surrounding area.
Rock Springs Village President Harlan Behnke said the village is anxious about additional blasting.
“If we get a break in our aquifer, that would be terrible,” he said.
Behnke also said about 100 trucks hauling material from the quarry roll through Rock Springs each day.
“They are just a nuisance,” he said.
Excelsior Town Chairman Robert Cassity said citizens want to know what Union Pacific has planned for the quarry.
“At some point, I think people would like to see an end to quarry operations,” he said. “We’re not so unhappy with the way things are now, but we don’t want them to expand hours of operation and we don’t want noise or dust levels to increase.”
But Cassity said the quarry is an important piece of the local economy, because several families rely on it as their primary source of income.
Several Board of Adjustment members said they were concerned the railroad company hadn’t found a company to manage the site, but railroad representatives assured the committee that the track record of a company will play a role in the selection process.
Representatives of the Pink Lady Rail Transit Commission and the Reedsburg Industrial Commission spoke in favor of the quarry, citing the economic importance of having a rail line in Sauk County.
By Tim Damos