HURLEY — The Iron County Board of Supervisors approved language and alterations to the zoning ordinance for the county, in relation to ferrous and nonferrous mining, Tuesday.
The changes approved by the board for sections 9.4.4 through 9.4.11 were in relation to districts with ferrous and nonferrous mining and the uses authorized by a conditional use permit in those areas.
The addition of two new sections to the ordinance were also approved, which focused on the requirements set by the county for both ferrous and nonferrous mining. Ferrous mining was for bulk sampling and nonferrous was for prospecting.
Both require the submission of an application form through the county, a $10,000 fee and the proposed bulk sampling plan or prospecting application that were already submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
All of the changes to the ordinance were recommended by the Iron County Comprehensive Planning/Land and Zoning Committee after a public hearing Monday night.
Supervisor Jim Lambert, of Mercer, complimented zoning administrator Tom Bergman for his work on the ordinance.
“You did a good job on this,” Lambert said.
Bergman was assisted in writing the process by attorney Christopher Jaekles, of Davis and Kuelthau, SC, in Milwaukee. Jaekles was hired to assist the county in mining related issues and was formerly introduced to the board during the meeting.
Jaekles said it was “an honor and privilege” to work in the county, and said he was working with “top-notch staff.”
“I believe that we got you going in the right direction,” Jaekles said, in relation to the ordinance. “We want this to be a net positive for the county financially, environmentally and economically.”
During committee reports, Supervisor Opal Roberts, of Mercer, spoke to the board about the finance committee and said the county would not be paying for health insurance for retiring employees because of “lack of funds.”
Four employees are believed to be retiring by the end of 2013, with two coming from the highway department. According to Supervisor Larry Youngs, of Hurley, the two highway employees were promised health insurance after their retirement by former county supervisor Dennis DeRosso.
Youngs, who is also a member of the highway committee, asked if the finance committee could review the numbers again to see if something could be done.
“Personally, I believe they are being hosed,” Youngs said. “They were promised something by a man who I have a lot of respect for, and I am going to do whatever I can to honor his promise. We have to do something.”
The matter will be taken up again by the finance committee during its next meeting.
Mercer resident John Sendra presented a mining impact report to the board, focusing on the potential economic impact of the proposed iron ore mine in Upson, Wis.
According to Sendra, the overall economic impact of the mine operation would be $604 million annually, based on the 8 million tons that would be mined.
Based off of the 8 million tons mined each year, 2,384 jobs would be supported in the area, with an annual tax base of $17 million. Each job would pay $82,984 on average, with full benefits.
According to a report from the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Iron County sustained 3,546 full-time jobs from 1970-2010.
“With this mine, we would nearly double that,” Sendra said.
Currently, according to Sendra, one-in-nine people in Iron County are without work.
“We’re all struggling and we need to do something,” Sendra said. “We are like the Saudi Arabia of iron ore, and that is what we need to use.”
Hurley School District
Chris Patritto, district administrator for the Hurley K-12 School District, spoke to the board to provide an update on how the school is doing.
Patritto spoke about technology upgrades, and continuing programs throughout the district, as well as how things are financially.
A major focal point was the relationship between the school district and the community.
“This district has a web of arms coming from it that can’t be counted,” Patritto said. “There are some many groups and people that spend time in the school.”
He also said the community relationship is also rare.
“I go all around the state and the community we have isn’t found just any where,” Patritto said. “As I have said before, any school is only as good as its community, and any community is only as good as its school. There are a lot of connections between the community and the school.
“I am honored to be a part of this school and proud of the community, because it’s not a relationship you see every where.”
Stumpage was reported to be at $1,368,890 as of Tuesday. Last year, stumpage was $948,798.
Mercer resident Jeff Wilson invited the board to attend a meeting for the Iron County Citizen’s Forum on Sept. 5 at the Oma Town Hall at 7 p.m. The meeting includes speakers Matt Hudson, coordinator of the watershed program at Northland College, and Tony Janisch, executive director of the Bad River Watershed Association.
“You are all invited to attend, and I know that you are all very busy,” Wilson said. “Please keep an open mind, and listen and learn all you can.”