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Board of Adjustments plans to visit gravel pit
Woodland Vista neighborhood wants assurances of quiet time, buffer spaces, notifications

The Barron County Board of Adjustments met the morning of Aug. 24 to hear an appeal to the expansion a nonmetallic mine in the Town of Stanley requested by Todd Widdes, doing business as Todd's Redi-Mix, Inc.

Board members heard testimony for and against the expansion, then scheduled a site visit for Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. before setting conditions.

Jerry Thompson said operating hours at the new site would be limited, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. although there is no limited hours of operation at the original site.

He said the company would have berms on the west side with reclamation of the site the same as what it already does at other sites.

Hydro geologist Bob Service, who undertook a detailed study of groundwater flow, well records and the potential impact on neighbors, presented maps of his detailed findings.

He said the wells come from three different aquifers and according to computer models, the water use needed with the expansion would cause insignificant drawdown of neighboring wells.

He said the groundwater quality is good for most purposes and there are no contamination sites at this time near the pit, according to the Department of Natural Resource records.

"Continued operation at the pit is not expected to cause groundwater degradation," Service said. "The proposed operation is not in conflict with groundwater quality."

Brewer Noah Marach said his main concern was water quality and he appreciated the effort that went into the groundwater study. He said for further peace of mind, he would like a guarantee that if something were to happen, the DNR would come in and fix it at the company's expense.

He said the air quality study also gave him peace of mind that there are no high levels of anything in the chemical composition of aggregate. Yet he asked for a study done annually as a way of monitoring the air quality.

Mike McGiffin, who said he and his wife currently live in a piece of heaven, will lose some forest land between their property and the gravel pit with the expansion.

"I know I can't stop it, but I hope we can still walk around without feeling like we live in the middle of a gravel pit," he said.

Rebecca Kemp, who lives diagonally from the site, spoke on behalf of the Woodland Vista neighborhood. She said they would like an annual meeting to discuss issues that arise and all in the neighborhood would like to be notified before zoning changes occur so they can participate in the process.

She said they agree to the hours of operation but want assurance of quiet time after 6 p.m. She said the proposed 550 foot buffer, with 500 of that solid trees, sounds good, but she is not certain about enough proposed buffer from other directions.

Kemp also said to deprivate property values is against the county's Land Use policy, and she is concerned about replacing an amenity (woods) with a disamenity (gravel pit).

She said, "I want us to take our time to make sure that it is done well to protect everything we can in the process."

She also asked for a 175-foot buffer to ensure that the Rustic Road is protected.

"I want us to take our time to make sure that it is done well to protect everything we can in the process."

Rebecca Kemp

Eighty percent opt for Rice Lake in-school learning

When the 2020-2021 school year begins next week, 1,759 or 82% of students will head into classrooms in the Rice Lake Area School District.

Another 18% or 388 students have chosen to start the school year with distance learning. A little more than 50 students have yet to decide on a learning format.

Both environments will be new and different, with masks, sanitizing and social distance top priorities at inschool settings and more structure added to virtual education.

Students who get sick and/or must quarantine or other extenuating circumstances will immediately change from school to home instruction.

At a meeting of the Board of Education on Aug. 24, District administrator Randy Drost said other students who wish to change learning formats will be asked to wait until the end of a trimester at the elementary level or the end of a term at the middle and high school levels.

Frequently asked questions and answers regarding face coverings Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and all other COVID-related matters are posted on the district website and has been sent to district families, he said.

District information regarding face coverings includes the following:

In the RLASD, all staff and students in Grades 4K-12 are required to wear a cloth face covering while attending school or a school function in any district building, facility or other district-controlled area, and when riding in district-provided transportation.

Documentation from the medical professional needs to be submitted if unable to wear a face covering.

Acceptable face coverings include a bandana, cloth mask, disposable mask or religious face covering. It does not include face shields, mesh masks, masks with holes or openings, or masks with vents.

Through a donation from the Department of Public Instruction, the school district is able to provide two cloth face coverings to every student. These face coverings are "one size fits most."

Drost said, "As a district, we will approach the wearing of cloth face coverings with common sense, dignity and respect, and with the understanding that the use of cloth face coverings are a mitigation measure that will help us maintain the in-person learning option." He added, "We will work with staff and students to provide opportunities for students to have breaks from their face coverings."

Board president Keven Jensen thanked the board for their hard work to bring students back as safe as possible and for remaining professional in unique and tense times.

Board member Josh Estreen said the district was fortunate to have the staff they do with nobody knowing what's coming.

"It's go time, and they're on the front lines and they're doing it," Estreen said, thanking administrators as well.


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