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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Cottage Township to retain Cottage Grove Road

  • Cottage Grove Road will remain a part of the Cottage Township road system and not be sold to Peabody Energy for a haulage road, Cottage Township Road Commissioner Michael Karns said at a hearing Monday.
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  • Cottage Grove Road will remain a part of the Cottage Township road system and not be sold to Peabody Energy for a haulage road, Cottage Township Road Commissioner Michael Karns said at a hearing Monday.
    Karns said he had spoken to many township residents and had not heard from any who supported vacating the road.
    “I’m sorry Mr. Keller, I deny this vacation of this road. It will stay open to the public,” Karns said, addressing John Keller, manager of Cottage Grove strip mine.
    The hearing took place on the road in question, a stretch of road between state Route 13 and old Route 13. North of state Route 13 is the haulage road for Cottage Grove Mine. South of old Route 13 Cottage Grove Road becomes Rocky Branch Road which was a part of the Saline County highway system before the Saline County Board sold it to Peabody in the spring.
    Peabody intends to expand its Cottage Grove strip mining operation to the south within close proximity to the community of Rocky Branch. Members of the community and their supporters have voiced strong opposition to the mine expansion at meetings and hearings over the past several months. Some supporters blocked a road to loggers hired to clear land in preparation for the mine and some of those were arrested trespassing on Peabody land to trying to block access to logging equipment.
    Though Karns’ decision was what the protestors had hoped for, his announcement was not without controversy.
    Cottage Township Board Trustee Judy Kellen said the meeting during which the township appointed Karns was not in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The meeting was not publicly announced and there was no agenda. The township appointment of Karns came after former township road commissioner Tim Tuttle resigned his position earlier in the spring. Rocky Branch supporter Georgia de la Garza said the township has been reported to the Attorney General’s Office.
    “Michael, I’m contesting every decision that you make due to the violations of the open meetings act of the Cottage Township Board of Trustees,” Kellen said during Monday’s hearing.
    “Thank you Judy,” Karns said.
    “Good decision, though, Mike,” Georgia de la Garza said, and the Rocky Branch supporters applauded.
    Jennifer Dumbris, resident of Carnahan Road, said she was relieved at Karns’ decision, though knows the matter is only a small victory for the Rocky Branch supporters.
    “We’ve got a long fight to go,” Dumbris said.
    “We are just going to stand our grand and keep fighting back.”
    De la Garza gave a short speech to Rocky Branch supporters and took a group photo in celebration.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We haven’t won the war, but it’s definitely another little victory,” De la Garza said.
    Following a June 12 meeting which was continued until Monday — so that the newly-appointed Karns could better familiarize himself with the road issue — Peabody Spokeswoman Charlene Murdock indicated the mine has been exploring other options if the township was unwilling to give up the road, while believing using Cottage Grove Road as the haulage road was the safest option.
    “Operations at Cottage Grove will continue to advance using identified alternatives. Our priority is to maintain public safety in the vicinity of the mine while fueling economic growth and jobs across the region,” Murdock said, in a prepared statement.
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