Glenwood City Mayor John Larson, and city council members Nancy Hover and Dave Graese, are the focus of an effort to recall city politicians amid a frac sand mining controversy.
On Friday, Sept. 20, the Glenwood City Citizens for Legal and Ethical Representation filed statements of intent to circulate recall petitions with the Glenwood City clerk. According to the group’s press release, the statements target Larson, Hover and Graese over concerns of a possible frac sand mining operation coming to town through Texas-based Vista Sand.
“We have to have the signatures within 60 days. We’re waiting for the City Clerk to give us the exact number that we will need,” said Stephanie May, a resident of nearby Downing.
May guesses it will take between 140 and 175 signatures. The actual formula is 25 percent of the registered voters in Glenwood City who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Now May and other residents fear the city may expedite a contract with the mining company.
“We thought that might happen also, but they had every intention of making it happen as quickly as possible anyway,” May said. “They’re shoving it through as quickly as they can no matter what. The citizens of Glenwood City and of Downing and the surrounding area feel ignored and walked on by the city council.”
After briefly listening to numerous appeals from concerned citizens to reconsider a referendum related to annexing property for a frac sand mine on the doorstep of their local school on Monday, Sept. 16, the Glenwood City Council went into closed session and met with representatives from Vista Sand.
“I personally have come to the conclusion, that it’s all well and good to try to reason with reasonable people of good intent, but we’re way past that now,” said frustrated Glenwood City resident Jim Laskin. “They’re absolutely not listening. They’re going to do what they want to do. We’re going through the motions. That’s all we’re doing.”
An audience of about 20 people took turns asking the council to slow the process down, to reconsider the setbacks, and to appreciate how seriously this issue is dividing the community.
According to Laskin, denying any connection between annexation and a mine and then setting a meeting with Vista Sand has demonstrated a lack of transparency and honesty on behalf of the city council.
“They have absolutely no respect for their community whatsoever and hold us in very low regard,” Laskin said.
He went on to warn council members, “If you insist on total authority, you will also be saddled with complete responsibility. Whatever comes out of this good or bad, it’s going to be on your shoulders period.”
Council member Crystal Booth initially voted against going into closed session stating, “I didn’t think it warranted it.”
After counsel explained the purpose for the closed session, Booth changed her mind.
“I thought it was to figure out our own strategy, what the city would want from a frac (sand) mine if it came into the city,” Booth said.
Once the session started and it appeared headed in a different direction, she left.
“I hear from a lot of people that they feel left out and that the process has gone way too fast, and I agree,” Booth said.
Following Booth’s departure, Vista Sand representatives were invited to meet with the remaining council members in closed session for about a half hour after which the council returned to open session and adjourned. There was no comment from Vista Sand’s attorney Anders Helquist or Mayor Larson following the meeting. According to City Clerk Shari Rosenow, no further meetings have been scheduled at this time.