State and Province News March 2012
To keep up to date with this breakdown of news in the United States and Canada, visit www.AggMan.com for daily updates.
Graniterock once again hosted more than 50 middle school students for a week-long Algebra Academy at its corporate office in Watsonville. According to a company press release, the program is part of a continuing community outreach program with Rolling Hills Middle School to provide support, tutoring, and mentoring in a number of different academic areas. In 2011, the company and school began collaborating with Cal-State University and developed the intensive six-day, hands-on academy. Educators at both the university and middle school agreed that accelerating the students’ understanding of algebra would provide them with the skills and confidence to succeed in math in high school and college.
The Victorville City Council tabled support for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s bill, the Soledad Canyon High Desert, California Public Lands Conservation Management Act, which would stop Cemex from developing a 500-acre mine in Soledad Canyon. The bill would ban mining in Soledad Canyon, with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) buying back its contracts from Cemex, selling land outside Victorville, and channeling the proceeds to Cemex and for the acquisition and protection of environmentally sensitive lands in the area. The Signal reports that council members say they need more information about the bill, particularly any differences between this bill and one it previously supported authored by Rep. Buck McKeon. They asked to schedule a workshop with officials from Santa Clarita, representatives from Boxer’s office, the BLM, Cemex, and TXI Riverside Cement, which voiced concerns about a potential land swap during a recent council meeting.
Faced with a triple threat of reduced federal aid, state gas tax cuts, and deferred maintenance, state legislators and planners are now publicly speaking about levying highway tolls and passing a sales tax surcharge. According to The Hartford Courant, State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker detailed the DOT’s five-year capital plan which requires nearly $6 billion and would still leave $15 billion to $20 billion on the state’s to-do list. In the last decade, the number of pending bridge repair projects has grown from 531 to approximately 2,000. Several legislators say they believe voters would accept a sales tax if lawmakers used it only for transportation projects, but a history of raiding “dedicated” funds has made taxpayers skeptical.
The LaSalle County Board approved Mississippi Sand LLC’s proposal to operate a sand mine near Starved Rock State Park. The Chicago Tribune reports that a crowd of approximately 200 people attended the meeting, where board members voted 20-6 for the proposal. The operator still needs mining permits from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources before mining the 300-acre site. Union members, including unemployed workers, lined up outside the hall before the meeting in a show of support for Mississippi Sand. One spoke during the meeting, noting that the county needed the 39 estimated jobs created by the new mine.
At Aggregates Manager press time, transportation advocates were planning Transportation Day 2012 at the Iowa Capitol. According to the Des Moines Register, representatives of highway associations and coalitions, elected officials, engineers, economic developers, industry associations, and others planned to lobby legislators for passage of an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, as well as increases in other fees. The governor and DOT director were expected to address the group before participants went to the Statehouse for one-on-one meetings with their state legislators.
State Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, told reporters that Senate Democrats are ready to support an increase in the state’s gas tax. While admitting that a gas tax increase is politically treacherous, he said it was essential to pay for transportation infrastructure. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that lawmakers have discussed raising the tax by as much as 15 cents per gallon and have also discussed the idea of rolling it out in incremental increases. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he is open to a gas tax increase, but has offered no specifics. State Republicans cautioned that increased funds can’t all be absorbed by new rail projects, noting that the state subsidizes 65 percent of mass transit-related costs, while 92 percent of state residents don’t use the system.
Helena Sand and Gravel was named the business of the year by the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce. The Helena Independent Record reports that the business was started in 1927 by area building contractor George Jacoby, who opened a gravel pit to supply his operation. “Gravel pits are not always a bad thing, as some people think,” President Scott Olsen quipped as he accepted the award. The company has played a significant role in the community’s development, with approximately 180 workers in its peak months.
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