State and Province News November 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
State highway officials say that bids on transportation projects are lower than expected — allowing the state to stretch federal stimulus funds. Arkansas received $31 million in stimulus funds. Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman Glenn Bolick told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the state expected to fund 99 projects, but, so far, has funded 132. He said that the lack of private projects has led contractors to bid more fiercely on public ones, with bids coming in 10 to 12 percent under estimates.
The Associated General Contractors of America and the staff of the California Air Resources Board reached an agreement on proposed changes to the state’s off-road diesel rule designed to give the construction industry time to recover from the recession while protecting air quality. According to Mike Kennedy, the association’s general counsel, the proposed changes are based on new and far lower estimates of the emissions from off-road diesel equipment in the construction industry. The proposed changes call for the Board to delay its emissions standards for off-road diesel equipment until 2014, to ease the annual burden employers have to bear, and to give contractors greater flexibility in determining how to comply. Contractors would also receive credit for efforts they have already made to reduce emissions and would be rewarded for voluntarily reducing emissions before 2014. The Board is expected to vote on the proposed changes at its December meeting.
Vulcan Materials Co., Western Division announced that the wildlife habitat at its Sacramento Aggregate Plant has received official recertification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). The plant is one of 41 Vulcan sites with WHC-certified wildlife habitats. Certification requirements are stringent, and sites must be recertified every two years. “I applaud our employees’ efforts to create and maintain wildlife habitats,” said Alan Wessel, president of Vulcan’s Western Division. “Through these and other activities, we demonstrate our continuing commitment to environmental stewardship while providing essential infrastructure materials that are required by the U.S. economy.”
An editorial in the Colorado Independent underscores the lack of meaningful dialogue on transportation, while gubernatorial candidates debate issues such as improving skier traffic between Denver and mountain resorts. Writer David O. Williams points out that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reported that more than half of the state’s 9,000-plus miles of roads and 128 bridges are currently rated in “poor” condition. CDOT officials say they need another $500 million a year just to maintain current conditions, and the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery bill passed in 2009 hasn’t made a dent in that need as collections have lagged.
Volusia County Council members tabled a controversial decision on an aggregates stockyard and asphalt batch plant because two council members were absent from the meeting. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Martin Marietta Aggregates is planning the endeavor on a 60-acre site adjacent to a CSX railroad line. Although the land is designated for industrial use to allow an aggregate distribution yard, part of it is also designated for agricultural use. Allen Watts, Martin Marietta’s attorney, requested the delay to allow “full council to weigh in on the application.” A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.
Attorney Dwight Preston said he plans to appeal a Hardin County Planning Commission recommendation to impose an Interstate and Highway Overlay Zone near a Glendale site on behalf of landowners affected by the proposal. According to The News-Enterprise, the overlay zone would bar 11 business uses — including crushed stone, sand, and gravel operations; asphalt manufacturing; and ready-mix and/or concrete plants — from the site. Preston called the process a “smoke-and-mirrors” act by the Hardin County Planning and Development Commission because it was the entity that submitted the proposal and placed its staff in position to argue on the zone’s behalf. Hardin County Commissioner Garry King also questioned the overlay zone, saying it appears to be a “case of government flexing its muscles unnecessarily.”
Peter Busque’s Windham quarry received approval from the Windham Planning Board to operate year-round, www.keepmecurrent.com reports. The seven-member board allowed a May-to-October restriction to drop. In addition, it granted the removal of about 7,000 feet of perimeter fencing and the adoption of less stringent vibration standards. Busque is a councilor in the community and said that the restrictions — originally approved in 2008 — were politically motivated and singled him out for greater restrictions than other aggregate businesses in the area. A community group that opposed the operation in 2008 complained that the conditions were being removed “one by one.”
Developers with Heartland Materials LLC told the Southeast Missourian that its proposed quarry can be a safe and responsible neighbor to Saxony Lutheran High School. In early October, the company filed an open pit mining application with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Land Reclamation Program. A Heartland Materials spokesman said the company could exceed the 100-foot setback requirement and keep its boundary 1,200 feet from the main road. It would also landscape the area and make an effort not to blast during school hours. Seismographs would be set up to monitor blasts. He added that roads in front of the mine property would be paved and that gravel roads would have sprinkler systems for dust control.
Before successfully navigating the mergers and acquisitions market, third generation family members leading the Phillips Cos. made long-term business strategy a regular part of its business. According to the Dayton Business Journal, the company began to hold monthly meetings and annual retreats to focus on its vision. The company also hired a consultant to help it work through its growing pains. When the consultant suggested an acquisition, the company began targeting acquisitions, but came up short. It then hosted an acquisition roundtable to meet with business leaders who had acquired other businesses. By asking experienced business buyers why they bought a company, how they went about it, what they did right, and what they did wrong, the family members were able to develop a road map that eventually led to its successful acquisition of Miller Bros. Gravel.
Nashville-based Rogers Group Inc. (RGI), the largest privately owned aggregates firm in the nation, has entered its fourth generation of family ownership with Ben L. Rechter, great-grandson of company founder Ralph Rogers, being elected as chairman of the board of directors. He presided over his first meeting on Sept. 23 and 24. Rechter, son of former RGI president and board member Ben R. Rechter, has served both on the company’s board and management team. “The strength of Rogers Group is and always has been its people, guided by a solid governance process and a clear set of core values,” said President and CEO Jerry Geraghty. “It is clear to me that the family’s commitment to the company’s long-term growth and their experience and understanding will be a key part of our continued success for the next 100 years.”
From a field of more than 500 mines in Virginia, Luck Stone’s Powhatan Quarry has been awarded Virginia’s 2010 Land Reclamation Award for its environmental efforts. According to Powhatan Today, Conrad Spangler, director of the department of mineral mining, presented the award to Plant Manager Jamey Epps at a luncheon. “This is not something that happened last week or last year,” Epps told the newspaper. “It’s been in the works since 1985 when the plant opened.” He estimated that the plant has invested between $4 million and $6 million throughout that time on projects such as planting trees, controlling water runoff, relocating streams, constructing berms, and seeding slopes.
Dollars intended for the state’s Transportation Fund, but being used to balance its budget, have drawn the ire of many throughout the state. In a commentary in The Northwestern, writer John Casper notes that during the last eight years, $1.3 billion has been raided from the fund for non-transportation related expenditures. The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce has joined a state-wide coalition called Finding Forward. The coalition has asked counties throughout the state to place an advisory referendum question on the election ballot to protect the state’s transportation fees. If passed, the constitutional amendment would require that transportation funds be used solely to fund the state’s transportation systems and infrastructure.
Speaking about impact of the recession on the national and state economy, Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, told members of the Wyoming Contractors Association, “The best I can hope for is that we’re finally bottoming out in the last few months.” Wyoming Business Report notes that Simonson said that while many fear a double-dip recession, the construction industry is still in the first dip and could see additional setbacks as it hits bottom and begins upward momentum. “Total construction was up for the first time in five years; however, materials costs will eat up much of that gain, perhaps all of it if we had a bad spike,” he said. The state has lost nearly a quarter of its construction workforce during the recession.
According to The Coast Reporter, Sechelt’s Lehigh Cement received a tip of the hard-hat from the province for its mine reclamation, innovation, and work in the community. The operation, located near Vancouver, British Columbia, received the Jake McDonald Annual Mine Reclamation award from the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources at its 34th Annual Reclamation awards. Mine Manager Mike Latimer said the award was significant for two reasons: it’s the first time a sand and gravel mine has received the award, and it’s the first time the province looked to variables outside the mine in making the award. Lehigh holds open houses and school tours at the mine, contributes to housing projects, and has a working relationship with the Sechelt Indian Band.