State and Province News December 2010
To keep up to date with this breakdown of news in the United States and Canada, visit www.AggMan.com for daily updates.
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
The Azusa City Council voted unanimously to hold a special election on Jan. 25, 2011. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that the election, which will feature a referendum on Vulcan Materials Co.’s Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan, will cost $60,000 more than if the issue was included on the March ballot. Councilman Angel Carrillo, who is up for re-election in March, initiated the special election. Only Mayor Joe Rocha voted against it. City officials have said a vote of the people could backfire and end up nullifying all mining fees and other benefits negotiated by the city.
Pasco planners agreed to allow developers of a 75-home subdivision near the Hernando County line to mine sand despite objections from nearby residents. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the developers asked for permission to remove 650,000 cubic yards of sand during the next three years. Residents voiced concerns about dust, noise, and traffic, but mining was approved. Permit conditions include restricting hours of operation (9 a.m.-4 p.m., weekdays), repairing damage to any private wells within a 1,500-foot radius of the site, mining in 5-acre increments, and putting up signs to alert residents of truck traffic, among others.
The lack of infrastructure investment is having unexpected consequences for sand and gravel haulers in the state, who are among the truck owners targeted by increased registration fees. Pat McEntee, vice president of Central Paving Co. of Boise, told The Idaho Business Review that the cost of high registration fees and taxes necessary to keep his trucks on the road is difficult to balance against the backdrop of construction costs in an uncertain economy. Idaho Trucking Association President Kathy Fowers told the journal that Idaho companies pay the third-highest registration fees in the country and noted that trucks with heavy loads, such as sand and gravel, pay even more. In 2008, individual companies paid an average of $8,607 in state highway user fees and taxes, plus $8,959 in federal fees for a typical five-axle tractor trailer.
A group of neighbors gathered to share concerns about a potential gravel mine being discussed on the Brunner Farm property, near the Fox River. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, a resident hosted more than 30 community members. Cathy Hurlbut, District 19 forest preserve and county board representative, stressed that the Kane County Forest Preserve Planning and Utilization Committee has discussed mining to create lakes and fishing ponds, but noted that the only gravel being removed would be to facilitate the creation of those bodies of water. A community member said that, while he understood the distinction she was making, he didn’t trust that mining would stop once the lakes and ponds were completed. The meeting, held prior to Nov. 2 elections, also included several candidates, including Jim Shales, Joe Haimann, and Jennifer Barconi, who pledged not to allow mining on the property.
In late October, Vulcan Materials presented an Earth Science Day program for sixth graders from La Grange School District 105 at its McCook Quarry. Western Springs Suburban Life reports that more than 100 sixth graders were given the opportunity to see classroom lessons come to life as they learned how science, technology, engineering, and math skills are used at the site. One lesson explained how limestone is formed from the remains of sea creatures. The students attended a bus tour and participated in lab tests of rock quality and water quality.
Iowa City’s newest and largest park, the 207-acre Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, is set to undergo a $6.5 million transformation, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports. The former S&G Materials sand and gravel operation was purchased for $1 million in 2006. Workers have now paved a walking and biking trail that circles the lake, and the city opened bids for the $1.2 million second phase of the project, with construction continuing into the spring on an access drive, parking areas, a marina facility, and a boat ramp. Remaining items include the main lodge, additional parking, large shelters, new trails, and the beach. They are slated for the final two phases of construction.
A former 125-acre gravel mine in Hugo may be transformed into a community ballpark using tax funds intended for reclamation. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Washington County collects approximately $30,000 per year in taxes on gravel hauled from county gravel mines. That money goes into a special fund designated for reclaiming abandoned pits or, if there are no abandoned mines, for the construction of bridges and roads. City officials saw a recent expansion of the state statute as an opportunity to put the funds to another use, but the county turned down its request to use the funds to reclaim the site as a ballpark. City officials continue to look for a funding mechanism for the project.
The Jefferson County Council unanimously approved John Harness’ request to mine sand and gravel on his property. According to KTVI, the decision drew harsh criticism from area residents who have framed the issue as a battle between people and property rights. More than 400 have signed petitions protesting plans for the operation. Harness says that he will accept any permit restrictions placed on the operation, while residents say they plan to hire an attorney and appeal the decision.
Knife River Corp. closed its Lockwood machining and fabrication shop, The Billings Gazette reports. “Montana’s construction industry continues to be in a depressed state, and we need to adapt our business to maintain our product quality, customer service, and competitiveness in our markets,” said Knife River’s Montana and Wyoming President Dave Zinke. He noted that the company can more effectively use its people, resources, and equipment. Pam Link, senior public relations representative for Knife River, told the newspaper that part of the cause of unemployment in the construction industry is due to Congress’ failure to pass a new six-year highway funding bill. In related news, the company’s Belgrade Division employees welcomed Montana U.S. Representative Danny Rehberg to their facility to discuss that very issue. “We had an excellent conversation about the need for a long-term highway funding bill,” said Knife River employee Jackie Flikkema, who tracks issues, campaigns, and candidates for the company’s Montana operations. “I believe it is important for all of our members of Congress to find out more about what has happened to our industry and understand how funding construction has a positive ripple effect for the whole country.”
District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state Department of Transportation violated the law in its rejection of the lowest bid on a major 2009 road project and improperly withheld documents the losing company wanted for a bid protest. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Singleton said the DOT did not adhere to the state procurement code or the state Inspection of Public Records Act. She said that Fisher Sand & Gravel-New Mexico Inc. should have been awarded the contract for a $40 million widening of Interstate 10 south of Las Cruces. The company had the lowest bid, but before the contract could be awarded, the newspaper reports that DOT officials had secret conversations with the second-lowest bidder, FNF Construction. “NMDOT’s actions in entertaining FNF’s improper communication…undermine the integrity and transparency of the bid protest process,” the judge wrote.
Dolese Brothers announced that it acquired A&M Concrete Inc., noting that the move will allow it to expand its operations into Tulsa and the northeast region of Oklahoma. The Journal Record reports that terms of the sale were not disclosed. “This acquisition significantly extends Dolese’s market and should eventually open further growth opportunities in the northeast region of the state,” said Dolese President Mark Helm in a written statement. “We look forward to working with A&M’s employees and valued customers and are excited about the growth opportunities in this new market.” With the acquisition, Dolese has more than 40 ready-mixed concrete plants in Oklahoma and Louisiana and 15 stone, sand, and gravel operations.
The Nature Conservancy completed its $23.4 million purchase of 1,270 acres of property near Mount Pisgah from the Wildish family. According to The Register-Guard, the purchase was largely funded by lottery revenues from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and electricity ratepayer dollars from the federal Bonneville Power Administration. The property is adjacent to 3,500 acres of public land managed for conservation and recreation. The conservancy is expected to manage the new land for 10 to 15 years before transferring it to public ownership.
The Utah Safety Council honored Staker Parsons Companies and its subsidiary Western Rock Products with three awards for the company’s safety performance, the company reports. Western Rock was honored with the Perfect Record Award, an award presented to organizations that work 12 consecutive months without incurring an OSHA recordable injury, illness, days away from work, or death. The Award of Merit, presented to Staker Parsons and Western Rock, recognizes organizations that demonstrate an improvement in lost-time and incidents rates, and/or maintain rates that are consistently below the industry average. Staker Parson Vice President of Safety & Human Resource, Chris Kinnersley, credits Western Rock’s safety record to behavior-based safety processes that value active involvement and ownership of every employee in the safety culture. “BBS has been a positive experience. It has served as an awakening, making me more aware of my safety and aware of others’ safety,” said Western Rock’s Tina Jasper. “I have noticed that co-workers are more comfortable communicating about safety concerns and are offering their suggestions about how we can all improve safety.”