Mining company not complying with agreement


White Stallion is still hauling coal from the Shamrock Mine despite not being in compliance with its road agreement with the county.

Dubois County officials tried to stop the company from hauling on county roads, but found out recently that it can’t do so because of bankruptcy laws.

“I don’t like it, but I don’t know if there is anything else we can do,” County Highway Supervisor Steve Berg told the Dubois County Commissioners Monday. “They’re still hauling, and we’re not supposed to hold them up. So if they go out and tear up that road, I guess we eat that too?”

White Stallion is the parent company of Solar Sources, the mining company that has been mining for years and is now working along County Road 800 West. White Stallion filed for bankruptcy in December.

Last week, Berg went to the mine site to tell them to stop hauling on the county road because the company was in breach of the road agreement it has with the county for using the road. White Stallion has failed to pay the final payment for road work on County Road 800 West.

Afterward, White Stallion’s lawyer contacted Berg to let him know that the county cannot do that.

County Attorney Greg Schnarr talked to the lawyer and then contacted the county’s bankruptcy attorney, Dentons Bingham Greenebaum, for guidance. “Stopping them or trying to seek collection of things could be a violation of the state order in the bankruptcy case,” Schnarr told the commissioners. The firm is looking into options for the county.

“A bankruptcy doesn’t give you unlimited authority to do things that were at one time a violation,” Commissioner Chad Blessinger said. “If I’m a creditor, and you’re filing a bankruptcy, that doesn’t give you the right to break laws to pay me. That’s where I’m standing on this.”

Schnarr explained, “I can’t file a collection case against an individual who has a bankruptcy pending because there is a stay order in place.” Any action taken in this matter must adhere to the bankruptcy rules, he said.

Commissioner Elmer Brames told Berg to document what condition the road was in before and after White Stallion finishes hauling. Berg agreed, but still expressed disappointment that the county cannot stop the mining company from using the county road.

“I would like to think that, within reason, we can try to protect our road as best as we can, or at least force them to put up some money to ensure that the road is goin to be substantially cared for,” Berg said. “They have right to do what they can to pay their creditors off. But the ability to allow them to incur additional expenses, or damage to somebody else while they’re doing it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

The commissioners also:

Extended the local emergency disaster declaration to April 5, which is the commissioners' first meeting of that month.

Approved resident Chris Waltz creating a committee that will develop a COVID-19 remembrance honor, to recognize those who died from the virus, those who survived, and the frontline workers who worked and are still working to help county residents survive the virus. The idea that is agreed on by the committee will be brought back to the commissioners for approval, Waltz said.

Fined Rob Slotton, 5404 E. Walnut St., Dubois, for violating county rules by having overgrown weeds, construction materials and debris, and a recreational vehicle with an expired plate visible on his property. Slotton apologized for those violations as well as for not responding to the numerous times representatives of the Dubois County Solid Waste Management District tried to get in touch with him; the representatives had been trying to reach him since they’d gotten complaints in May. He said he has cut down the weeds and is taking care of the other violations. The commissioners ordered Slotton to eradicate the violations and pay a $600 fine by the commissioners' April 5 meeting. He is to also come back to that meeting to prove that he has complied.

Approved a contract with the Indiana Department of Transportation for the railroad crossing on County Road 600W. INDOT is going to install safety arms at the crossing, which it estimates will cost $350,000; the county will cover 10% of the cost. INDOT has been looking into this matter since September 2018, when the county brought the safety concern to INDOT’s attention.

Learned that 80.9% of county residents took it upon themselves to fill out the 2020 Census form online, by phone or by mail. Dubois County had the highest self-reporting percentage in Indiana and ranked No. 30 among counties in the United States, said Dubois County Councilwoman Becky Beckman, head of Dubois County’s census committee. U.S. Census officials have said that population counts would be released sometime this month.

Heard that the new assistant clerk for the highway department, Micaela Spayd, will start on Monday, March 8. She was selected from 29 applicants and will work with current clerk Wanda Beck until she retires in April.

Met Chelsea Brewer, Purdue Extension’s health and human sciences educator. Brewer, who is a Dubois County native, talked about her position, which she has been in since November.

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