March 2008 – State & Province News
On Sept. 18, 2007, Alamo Township officials unanimously voted to adopt a settlement agreement between the township and Aggregate Industries. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, that agreement paved the way for the company to begin operation of a 165-acre site. Since then a group calling themselves Recall Alamo 5 has launched a petition drive to remove all five officials from office. In early February, four of the supervisors successfully avoided a recall election when the group failed to collect enough signatures to get their names on the ballot. The fifth supervisor, Bob Vliestra, may be on the ballot if the local board of elections certifies the signatures delivered to the Kalamazoo County Clerk’s office. A total of 466 signatures were necessary for each board member. A member of Recall Alamo 5 told the newspaper that the group had collected about 475 signatures for Vliestra and at least 300 for each of the four remaining board members. The ballot language crafted by recall advocates states that board members violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by failing to provide proper notice of the meeting. Board members have denied that charge.
In late January, Manchester Sand & Gravel unveiled its plans for a new 428-unit housing project in Hooksett. According to The Union Leader, the project drew praise for its design, but also raised concerns about increased traffic on an already congested roadway. The project, Villages at Head’s Pond, features a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and condominiums as well as a three-acre, tree-lined town common and a 213-acre public park to be donated to the town for recreation. Home prices are expected to range from $300,000 to $650,000. Construction will be completed in eight phases during the next 10 to 12 years.
George Harms Construction of Freehold, a company building the first phase of the $400 million Route 52 causeway in Ocean City, bought a 100-acre sand and gravel pit in Petersburg. A spokesperson for the company said that the purchase had nothing to do with the ambitious construction project. The Press of Atlantic City reports that the contractor purchased the site from Caldwell Sand & Gravel for $2.8 million.
Later this year, construction of a sand miners’ memorial will begin on Long Island. According to Newsday, sand mining was once the area’s largest business. In the 1800s, as many as 800 workers lived in barracks at the sand banks; those workers were largely comprised of immigrants, including those from Italy, Poland, Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia. Efforts to build a memorial began in 1996. Since then, two designs have been drafted with the second accompanied by an anonymous donation to fund the monument. The first design, drafted in 2005, depicts a sand miner pushing a wheel barrel full of sand. Emerging from that sand is the New York City skyline. That second design features several figures representing the different jobs in the mines and on the barges. It is centered around large hands pouring sand on the Manhattan skyline. A final decision as to which design will be used has not been made, however construction is expected to begin this summer.
Thomas C. Stitt, of Kittanning, Pa., was awarded a federal patent for developing a ground circuit impedance measurement method. The Patent Office noted that the “novel ground circuit impedance device and method measure impedance in underground mine power systems connecting to an outside electrical power substation outside the mine and using portable transformers in the mine.” It also noted that it would “measure impedance in above-ground applications involving very long electrical power circuits such as those use to supply power to long conveyors and other electrical power equipment found in metal/non-metal mines, including limestone quarries, sand and gravel operations, and other surface mines.”
At Aggregates Manager press time, two meetings were held to discuss a new gravel mine in Atoka. The Commercial Appeal reports that the first meeting, held by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, was to solicit comments from the public concerning Memphis Stone and Gravel’s request for a new operation on a 500-acre site near the Tipton-Shelby county line. Immediately following that meeting, the Rosemark Civic Club held a meeting to discuss the potential impact of truck traffic on the community. The group opposes the operation. Memphis Stone and Gravel has pledged to meet or exceed water quality standards, build berms to reduce noise, screen the operation from view, use water trucks to control dust, and take other measures to reduce the impact.
The Dorchester County Council shelved a proposal to limit sand mines to industrial areas following protests that included property rights concerns, but its chairman agreed to send a letter to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as well as the Department of Transportation (DOT). According to The Post and Courier, the letters will urge the DHEC to consider roads when approving mine permits and the DOT to become more involved in the process. Concerns on road costs arose when the DHEC permitted a mine that will place increased truck traffic on a roadway the county recently spent $100,000 to pave. Council members voiced concerns that the mine would conduct its business, but would ruin a road and the county would not have money to repair it. A spokesperson for the DHEC told the newspaper that it does not consider roads when approving a mine permit, but does hold public hearings before granting mine rights. A DOT spokesperson said that its only involvement in permitting is to make sure the legal load limits are followed.
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