After much discussion, the La Salle County Board agreed to a 10-year lease agreement with Midwest Barge Terminal to operate a barge fleeting operation on county-owned property along the Illinois River near the La Salle County Nursing Home.
A first proposal last month failed to get the necessary 75% vote from the board for approval.
Addressing concerns about possible blowing silica sand, the company worked with board member Brian Dose, D-Ottawa, to put in the lease it will not store or ship silica sand or pet coke from that location.
On Thursday, 22 of 26 board members present voted in favor of the agreement, giving it the necessary 75% by two votes. The county will receive $1,500 per month for the next 10 years. The company also will pay additional amounts per ton delivered from a truck, barge or other vehicle.
Still, there were some concerns from board member Tom Walsh, D-Ottawa, who talked mostly about silica sand, despite it being removed from the lease. He ultimately said he was concerned about any kind of sand dust within 1,300 feet from the nursing home and highway department. He said he'd be OK if the facility were a mile away from the nursing home.
Board member Tina Busch said the highway department already uses sand and salt, and it operates much closer to the nursing home without as much regulation as the barge facility will have.
The special use stipulated the operator should take all necessary actions to prevent blowing dust and operations would halt when wind speed exceeded 35 mph. Additionally, particles would be sprayed with water to prevent them from blowing.
Hours of operation were stipulated 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a conveyor system was required from the ground to all barges, according to the special use petition.
"I don't know if we're being fair to this company, when we're saying they're going to do something, and it's something they're not even going to do," said County Chairman Jim Olson, D-Seneca. " ... The contract is very clear, if they don't follow the rules, we give them 30 days and we terminate the lease. It's very cut and dry. This is a company that has to adhere to a lot of rules and regulations from the local level to the federal level. And I don't think we're being fair to these people, when we accuse them of doing something, and not give them the chance, and especially accuse them of doing something with a product they said they won't use. And it is an asset of the county, we need this asset."
Walsh was joined by Arratta Znaniecki, R-Ottawa, Joseph Savitch, D-Ottawa, and Douglas Trager, D-Ottawa, as voting against the lease agreement.
With the amendment for no silica sand, Joseph Witczak, D-La Salle, Jill Bernal, D-Peru; Joe Oscepinski, D-Peru, and Jerry Myers, R-Streator, changed their votes.