October 2008 – State & Province News
The state’s permitting quagmire continues, as developer Ken Allen recently learned. According to The Billings Gazette, Allen hoped to lease his 100-acre parcel to Knife River Corp. so that it could mine material for local road projects. The company and land owner waited to hear back from the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding its permit request. While they waited, neighbors appealed to the county for an emergency zone change to classify the land as residential. That request was denied because the county commissioners said they felt the DEQ would study the request and ensure the company would be a good neighbor. When the DEQ failed to issue the permit according to required timeline and as the project was set to begin, Knife River sued DEQ. Citizens again asked the county commission to rezone the property, and their request was granted because, as a commissioner told the newspaper, she understood the concerns of neighbors since the operation would move forward without review. In the meantime, Knife River invested $100,000 in a site that is, at least temporarily, zoned residential.
Raymond town officials have appointed the remaining members of a committee charged with the task of advising the town on its options regarding a controversial quarry on Route 27. The Union Leader reports voters had approved a warrant article calling for the town to establish a committee “to investigate the potential acquisition” of a site owned by Londonderry-based Thibeault Corp. The local select board, conservation commission, and town officials appointed members of the committee. Last year, the producer initiated a plan to permit a quarry on its 351-acre site. When its proposal generated concerns, Thibeault leaders sent town officials a letter indicating that they’d be open to selling the property. The value of the land, including stone and property, is more than $28 million.
Troy Sand & Gravel donated materials for improvements to the playground and recreational facilities at the Poestenkill Elementary School, the Times Union reports. It provided concrete delivery to the school to help parents and volunteers as they constructed a new walkway leading from the back of the building to the playground. “Kids will be playing on this playground for years to come, and it was inspiring to see how everyone came together to make this project a reality,” Tom Clemente, vice president of Troy Sand and Gravel, told the newspaper. The school project was the company’s second altruistic project this year. In the spring, it donated crushed stone and other materials for the improvement of a parking lot near the local Little League fields.
At a meeting in early September, Sequoyah County Commissioners asked the staff in the county clerk’s office to check records and make sure that Arkola Sand and Gravel has been paid. The company has refused to sell materials to the county twice, www.sequoyahcountytimes.com reports. A commissioner said he spoke with staff at the company and was told that three county districts owned Arkola more than $6,500 in total. He then asked the county clerk staff to straighten out the problem and pay the bill so that the county can purchase road materials. In the interim, the county has been paying another producer a premium for transporting material into the county.
High fuel prices and a downturn in construction led to layoffs at Eugene Sand & Gravel, Egge Sand & Gravel, and Bandon Concrete, part of Oldcastle Materials. A dozen workers, ranging from mechanics to key managers, were laid off, according to The Register Guard. Eugene Sand and Egge Sand now have about 275 workers, down from the typical seasonal peak of 400. “We would not have done anything like this had we thought this was a one-year event,” K.C. Klosterman, president of Eugene Sand & Gravel, told the newspaper. “We’re seeing this lasting two, if not three, years before the economy turns around.” He noted that the group’s business is down 40 percent from the same time last year.
A group of Bullskin residents attended a supervisors meeting asking for their help in preventing a rumored quarry from being developed in their neighborhood. According to the Daily Courier, the residents asked supervisors if any ordinances existed that could prevent the development. The chairman of the board of supervisors said they would work with citizens to review local ordinances. The citizens also inquired about the permit process and asked supervisors to put 10-ton weight limits on bordering roads.
State and local transportation officials told the Florence Morning News that rising asphalt costs could contribute to a funding shortfall for six Florence County road projects. “We’re just trying to upkeep what we’ve got to the best of our ability,” Sherwin Welch, chairman of the Florence County Transportation Committee, told the newspaper. He added that the group has not been able to pave any of the county’s many remaining gravel roads since 1995. The South Carolina Department of Transportation estimates that asphalt costs, which have risen about 20 percent in the last year, impact how many of the six projects collectively known as the Florence County Forward Project will be completed. The projects are being funded through a one-cent sales tax, passed through a referendum in May 2007. That tax is projected to collect $148 million, with another $250 million approved by the State Infrastructure Board’s evaluation committee. The estimated cost of the six projects is $609 million.