Monarch ready to mine for the future

County commissioners approved several conditional use permits to allow Monarch Cement to mine rocks and minerals from several hundred acres east of Humboldt. The additional access to mining material should allow the company to keep up with evolving industry standards.

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September 8, 2021 - 10:12 AM

Allen County Zoning Administrator Terry Call talks about conditional use permits for Monarch Cement Company. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Monarch Cement Company officials plan to use several conditional use permits to help the business thrive for the next 20 years or so.

Allen County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the company’s request for the permits on eight properties to the east of Humboldt, totaling several hundred acres. The permits would allow Monarch to mine shale, limestone and associated minerals used in cement manufacturing.

It should allow the company to remain competitive for the next 20 years as industry standards evolve and require a variety of resources.

Allen County Zoning Administrator Terry Call talks about conditional use permits for Monarch Cement Company. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

A planning commission hearing on Aug. 26 drew a large crowd of about 40 to discuss the matter, with many of those present speaking against the permits. 

They were worried about dust, noise and rocks dropped on the road from Monarch’s existing quarries, Terry Call, the county’s zoning administrator, said.

They also complained about a lack of response from Monarch when they attempted to resolve those issues.

To ease their concerns, Monarch agreed to set up an email list to notify neighbors before any blasting takes place.

Monarch, which was represented at the Aug. 26 hearing by Vice President Kenny Miller, also agreed not to do any blasting or quarrying of two properties near the Humboldt sports complex. In those locations, they would only remove topsoil.

In requesting the permit, Miller cited Monarch’s long history and economic impact for Humboldt. The company has been making cement for 113 years, and is well-known in the industry. 

But industry specifications for making cement change frequently, and it’s important for Monarch to have access to various types of rock and minerals.

Miller also outlined the process for reclaiming quarries, such as removing berms and boulders, and planting native grasses. Monarch has reclaimed two limestone pits and stocked them with minnows for Monarch employees to eventually fish at the site, he said. 

Most of the pits are still being used. The original pit will be the last to be reclaimed, he said. 

Multiple residents spoke of damage to their homes because of blasting, and were concerned about a possible increase. Sally Manbeck said a blast rocked her house and caused damage. Dustin Stanley also talked about cracks in his house. 

Miller assured those present that Monarch’s blasting is done within state guidelines by experts who use a formula to determine how many holes to dynamite. He said Monarch can set up a seismograph at an affected area to determine if blasts are exceeding recommendations.

The new email list should provide better communication for neighbors to prepare for blasts, and request the company’s help to resolve problems, including damage, Miller said. 

On a 5-0 vote, the planning commission recommended the county approve the permits. Two members of the commission were absent.

Call and Commissioner Jerry Daniels said they were contacted by someone who argued one of the planning commission members should have abstained because of a conflict of interest regarding business dealings with Monarch.

Even if that person had abstained, the recommendation still would have passed with four votes, Call and Daniels pointed out.

Commissioners unanimously approved the permits.

IN OTHER news, commissioners:

Heard a report from 911 Director Chelsie Angleton, who briefly talked about the storm Friday night and Saturday morning. The Westco roof collapsed in the middle of the night. The storm also knocked out the 911 system, so Anderson County dispatchers fielded calls for a short period of time. The cause has not been determined.

Discussed a list of priorities as requested by the Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission. The SEKRPC wanted commissioners to prioritize various issues that are important to development. 

Commissioners agreed the top three were attracting and retaining a qualified workforce, housing, and attracting and retaining business.

Agreed to tour both the current and proposed sites for the Iola Senior Center.

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