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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Cottage Road Commissioner: I really want it to stay open

  • The issue of whether Cottage Township selling a section of road to Peabody Energy for the expansion of Cottage Grove Mine — a strip mine — south of state Route 13 toward the community of Rocky Branch is delayed for 11 days.
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  • The issue of whether Cottage Township selling a section of road to Peabody Energy for the expansion of Cottage Grove Mine — a strip mine — south of state Route 13 toward the community of Rocky Branch is delayed for 11 days.
    Newly appointed Township Road Commissioner Michael E. Karns said during a Thursday evening hearing he requires time to confer with legal counsel, a Springfield road and bridge attorney.
    The hearing was on Cottage Grove Road, a section of road between state Route 13 and old Route 13 in Cottage Township. South of old Route 13 the road becomes Rocky Branch Road, a portion of which the Saline County Board has already sold to Peabody Energy for the mine’s haulage road.
    Karns read a statement during the hearing:
    “The appointment of Cottage Township Road Commissioner was made by the Cottage Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday evening June 10, less than 48 hours ago.
    “As the newly appointed Road Commissioner, I require adequate time to familiarize myself with the Illinois Statutes and Rule pertaining to the matter.
    “Therefore, after seeking legal counsel, I am postponing this hearing for eleven (11) days until June 23 at 6 p.m. at this same location. Scheduling a new hearing for ten (10) days would have required the meeting to be held on a Sunday.
    “Therefore, this meeting will continue on Monday, June 23 at 6 p.m. at this same location.”
    When the issue of vacating a road is discussed, the hearing must be held upon the road in question, Karns said.
    Karns said his desire is to keep the road as a part of the township road system.
    “I really want it to stay open,” Karns said, questioned by media following the hearing.
    The legality of Karns appointment as road commissioner is in question. Former Road Commissioner Tim Tuttle resigned and the township has held three hearings on the section of road, continuing each as the township board had not appointed a new road commissioner — the office holder who has ultimate authority over vacating roadways.
    Karns was appointed Tuesday at a meeting at Southeastern Illinois College, though there had apparently been no notice given the meeting was taking place as required by the open meetings act. Karns said there had been no public posting and no agenda presented to those in attendance. He said should a new vote be required regarding his appointment he intends to remain in consideration.
    Georgia de la Garza who is opposed to the Peabody Energy expansion toward the Rocky Branch community said the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has been contacted regarding the legality of the township’s Tuesday meeting.
    Page 2 of 2 - Karns served as township road commissioner previously and worked under two former road commissioners.
    “I’m ready to try and help the township,” Karns said.
    He said his family’s roots run deep in Rocky Branch.
    “Where we’ve lived we’ve been 100 years and I don’t intend to go nowhere fast,” Karns said.
    Though the short piece of road is in the path of Peabody Energy’s haulage road, it is not clear if the sale of portion of road blocks Peabody’s plan for mine expansion. Cottage Grove Mine Manager John Keller deferred a question regarding alternate plans should the township decide not to sell the road to Peabody spokeswoman Charlene Murdock.
    Murdock supplied the prepared statement, "Our team at Cottage Grove is innovative and has explored alternatives. We feel the proposal under consideration is the safest option for the community, while allowing the mine to continue to provide coal to fuel economic growth across the region."
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