While paying town’s $3,500 charge, corporation counsel calls for itemized accounting of expenses
Town of Saukville officials have made no secret of their displeasure with Ozaukee County’s quarrying operations in their community.
Now, the displeasure has switched directions, with the county paying a $3,500 quarrying permit fee for its newly acquired Opitz property under protest.
Last year, the Town Board approved a financial worksheet to determine appropriate fees for non-metallic mining permits.
The worksheet was developed by the town’s Quarry Committee, drawing heavily from new state legislation, NR 135. Much of the cost is associated with monitoring operations on quarry sites and ensuring that land remediation plans are followed.
The county submitted a $3,500 permit fee along with a letter from Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gorden protesting the charge.
“We are submitting our application and fee at this time in order to get the process for approval of our reclamation plan started,” Gorden said.
“However, we dispute the $3,500 fee as being excessive under NR 135. We note that your non-metallic mining reclamation ordinance does not provide for a $3,500 ‘permit fee’ or reference the authority of the town to charge a permit fee and that NR 135 does not provide for a permit fee.”
Along with the payment, Gorden said county reserves the right to challenge the fee through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
She said the county may also look “to obtain reimbursement of a portion of this fee if it is determined to be beyond the actual and reasonable expenses to you of administering the program.”
Gorden’s letter notes the statutory requirement that quarrying permit fees must “as closely as possible equal its expenses to administer its reclamation program, including but not limited to the examination and approval of nonmetallic mining reclamation plans.”
The town’s ordinance states the minimum charge is $1,000 or the actual cost of issuing the permit, she noted.
“We are concerned that the fee is three and one half times what your presumptive fee is for reviewing a reclamation plan. We are also concerned that the $3,500 is more than double what the DNR charges for a site the size of our site,” Gorden wrote.
The county has asked the town to provide an itemized breakdown of the expenses included in the permit fee.
Town Supr. Kate Smallish, who also serves on the Quarry Committee, said the fee is proscribed by the new ordinance, which addressed past inadequacies in quarry regulation.
Smallish said the fee schedule takes into consideration the possibility of having to request legal advice and the cost of having to schedule meetings to address the application.
“We came up with this amount, but it is still probably going to cost us more than we are going to collect. We didn’t just pull this number out of the air,” Smallish said.