Archived Story

County votes 10-5 on UP mining issue

Published 9:54am Friday, December 18, 2009

Dowagiac Daily News

CASSOPOLIS – It was a surreal end to 2009 for the Cass County Board of Commissioners which, at its last meeting until Jan. 7, 2010, at a new earlier time, 7 p.m., debated Upper Peninsula mining jobs versus acid rain.

By a 10-5 vote, Cass commissioners supported the Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners in strongly opposing passage of the MiWater Ballot Initiative.

Commissioners framed the issue as jobs versus environmental protection.

Commissioner Ed Goodman, I-Silver Creek Township, brought R-204 to the Resolutions Committee.

“This ballot proposal would more or less stop mining in Michigan by restraints which would handcuff the industry,” Goodman said. “In the Upper Peninsula, that’s about 40 percent” of job opportunities.

“With the state being the way it is, hard times and lack of revenue, I highly support this motion to oppose this resolution,” Goodman said.

“I’m on the other side of this,” countered Commissioner David Taylor, D-Edwardsburg. “I think this is an environmental issue. The material in our packets speak a great deal about Grosse Pointe and Henry Ford. Information I have I gathered from the environmental group that put this together, the MIWater Ballot Initiative, consists of many people from all over the state. The honorary chairman is former governor William Milliken. The language has been approved and is ready to go on the ballot. I can’t vouch for much of the material, but what I looked at today on the Web says this is to stop the first non-ferrous mining that has ever occurred in Michigan.”

Taylor continued, “The complaint is that the mining that is attempted to be stopped is sulphide mining. The ores are zinc sulphide and copper sulphide. When those are exposed to the air, it creates acid rain. When it rains it creates sulphuric acid that goes into Lake Superior and comes downstream all the way here.

“They’re also talking about 75 mining jobs,” Taylor said. “The Michigan League of Conservation Voters supports this ballot initiative, which I think should go before the people. I think it’s environment versus jobs – and we don’t want to lose jobs because there aren’t that many – but I think we’d be better off protecting our water at this time.”
“Jobs and minerals are both important to commercial industry,” said Commissioner Bill Steele, D-Calvin Township.

“So this doesn’t affect regular mining they’re doing right now?” inquired Commissioner E. Clark Cobb, D-Dowagiac.

“From my information from this organization, which I can’t vouch for the accuracy, currently there is the mining when you take iron out and see the bang and a big cloud of dust and the dirt comes down. That’s ferrous oxide. This is hard rock mining. They’re going to do the same thing with hard rocks with ferrous sulphide and zinc sulphide. There are no sulphide mines in Michigan. There is one in Wisconsin and one in Alaska. Per this group, every time you have a mine like that, you create pollution. The question is, do we want it here? Many people, including former Gov. Milliken, say no.”

Voting yes for jobs over the MiWater Ballot Initiative were Chairman Bob Wagel, Bill Steele, Charlie Arnold, Vice Chairman Ron Francis, Dixie File, Minnie Warren, Johnie Rodebush, Debbie Johnson, Cathy Goodenough and Ed Goodman.

No votes, favoring the environment, were cast by Gordon Bickel Sr., David Taylor, Carl Higley Sr., Clark Cobb and Robert Ziliak.

County Administrator Terry Proctor, who the day before announced his March departure after 20 years, said the Sept. 30 year-end general fund balance grew “significantly,” so, “I’m going to recommend that $400,000 be transferred from the general fund to the public improvement fund for future use for the document imaging project for various county departments. I sent out an e-mail about that. I’ve heard no comments from board members, so I’m going to ask that Mr. Wagel put that on the agenda for your next meeting.”

“I want to thank this Board of Commissioners, as well as commissioners of years past, for the opportunity to serve 20 years,” Proctor said. “Then I want to move on to recruiting and selecting my successor. In my opinion, it is one of the most important responsibilities of the Board of Commissioners and the County of Cass.”

Proctor furnished each commissioner with a free 26-page recruitment guidelines handbook for selecting a local government administrator compiled by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association.

It provides answers to their questions about how recruitment is conducted, what selection process should be used, what criteria there should be for the position and resources available to assist in recruitment.

“A chairperson and vice chairperson will be elected in three weeks,” Proctor said. “They will determine the meeting agendas for next year. The board will need to approve a job description, a job advertisement, a selection process and a salary range. Lastly, I’d like to wish the members of the board, county officials and all of the employees a very merry Christmas.”

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