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Incumbents keep seats following recall vote at GC

By the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism staff

The mayor garnered a 43-vote margin Tuesday, while two city council members held onto razor-thin leads in Glenwood City recall elections sparked by controversy over a proposed frac sand mine.

Glenwood City Mayor John Larson and city council members Nancy Hover and Dave Graese each faced one challenger in the recall elections, believed to be the first in Wisconsin to be prompted by frac sand mining.

Unofficial returns from the Glenwood City Clerk's Office late Tuesday night showed that in the mayoral recall election, Larson received 183 votes and challenger Ken Peterson received 140 votes.

City council member Hover received 163 votes, compared to 160 for challenger Barb Standaert.

And in the other city council race, incumbent Graese received 162 votes compared to 160 for challenger Chris Schone.

“I know it isn’t a huge margin, but a win is a win,” Hover said after the unofficial results came in.

She added she did not know what this meant for the mine.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” she said. “It just means it’s something we’re thinking about.”

Wisconsin is the nation’s No. 1 producer of sand used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process to extract oil and natural gas. There are at least 124 permitted or operational frac sand mines, processing plants and rail loading facilities in the state, according to a tally by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, has introduced legislation that would limit the ability of local governments to regulate some aspects of frac sand mining. The bill received strong opposition and it is expected to be reworked, for consideration in early 2014.

In the Glenwood City area, Texas-based Vista Sand hopes to mine 384 acres, about 35 to 40 at a time, said its attorney, Anders Helquist. It would extract as much as one million tons of sand per year for about 30 years.

“I’m not against mining,” said gas station owner Deanna Schone, whose children attend the schools and who was involved in both the recall and referendum petitions. “But the location of this mine is ridiculous. It goes against common sense.”

For Mayor Larson, however, jobs and the city’s finances are critical. Costs have continued to rise as revenue has stagnated, and city officials have had to make difficult cuts in the past few years. For the next budget year, more cuts to the library are on the table. But with a sand mine, he said, things could get better.

“We could go from talking about how little can the library survive on to talking about a new library,” Larson said. He added that the mine’s high-wage jobs might give young people an incentive to stay.

(The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.)