Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2003

Quarry quandary splits planners

Eudora commission vetoes recommendation

March 6, 2003

Call it voting along municipal lines.
A quarry expansion proposed southeast of Eudora garnered the support of the Douglas County Planning Commission, while the Eudora Planning Commission doesn't want to see the operation resume and expand northward. With split recommendations from both bodies, which met jointly Feb. 26, the Douglas County Commission will look at the issue in upcoming weeks.
Hamm Quarry's request to resume and expand its operation at 1200 Road and the Johnson-Douglas county line in order to meet demand for rock created by roadway construction drew criticism from rural Eudora and Johnson County residents.
Dan Hoover, who lives on the Johnson County side, had the same concerns as other nearby residents regarding an active quarry's impact on property values, structure damage, dust allergies, water quality and other environmental issues. Like other residents who spoke at last Wednesday's meeting in Lawrence, Hoover said the quarry was dormant when his home was built.
Moreover, he said the quarry had become a playground.
"Kids are getting in and out of there with their motorcycles, and it's really dangerous out there," he said. "It would be worth (Hamm operators') time to drive out there some night."
Tim Ross, who has a 150-year-old house nearby that he feared would be damaged by blasting, said he often saw people on four-wheelers and dirtbikes perusing the property. Another nearby resident said she was also worried about the facility's security, especially if the quarry were back in operation with dynamite stored on the property.
She said her 10-year-old son didn't understand why he couldn't walk around the property, and she questioned the fence's security. Dan Watkins, who spoke on behalf of the quarry at the joint planning meeting, said quarries maintained good safety records in large part because of the mandates federal and state agencies placed on quarries. The mining industry had its own form of OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazard Administration), and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is involved in quarries because of the explosives.
"They're not paying a lot of premiums to their insurance companies," Watkins said.
Moreover, he said Hamm, which has quarries throughout northeast Kansas, restored exhausted mined land back to its natural state. Although Hamm would probably use up the resources of the existing quarried area before expanding the operation northward on its property, the company planned to restore the land, originally owned by Katherine Neis and often called the Neis Quarry. To county Planning Commission member Myles Schachter's chagrin, however, operators couldn't say exactly when the land would be restored.
Even though Hamm would be required to upgrade the roads around the quarry to standards capable of sustaining its trucks within two years, Eudora Planning Commission member Richard Campbell worried how truck traffic would affect vehicles around the new high school and soon-to-be middle school, both of which will attract not only large volumes of traffic but also inexperienced drivers.
Hamm sales manager Martin Zielsdorf said the subcontracted drivers were supposed to stick to a designated route. The quarry anticipates most truck traffic traveling west on Douglas County 458, but routes would also depend on where projects crop up.
Moreover, Hamm has operated a quarry next door to an elementary school. Zielsdorf said increased public safety patrolling helped in such a situation.
Zielsdorf said at the elementary school he told the principal to take down the number of any truck posing problems and "they'd be gone."
Quarry officials said Hamm would also regulate when blasting took place. Ninety percent of blasting ending by noon, he said, with inclement weather accounting for most of the exceptions.
In response to various concerns about the project, Watkins reminded the commissioners and nearby residents that the quarry would be project-driven.
"This is not going to be a day-to-day operation," he said.
Zielsdorf said the Kansas Turnpike project took about three and a half months, which was about average.
"With the financial situation the state is in, we don't foresee anything for another year," he said.

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