At its July 30 meeting, the Osage County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a conditional use permit to allow a portable asphalt plant at a quarry located at 18486 S. Berryton Rd., Scranton.
Bettis Asphalt & Construction Inc. had requested the conditional use permit to install the asphalt plant at the Mid-States Materials LLC Plummer Creek Quarry to serve three upcoming Kansas Department of Transportation projects in Osage County, which were recently awarded to the asphalt company.
Planning commission chairman David Thompson told everyone at the meeting that the discussion would only pertain to the application to permit the asphalt plant.
“We’re here to discuss an asphalt plant, not dust control, not grievances, and we’ll go from here,” Thompson said. “This is the only thing we’re here to discuss tonight.”
Cole Andersen, a Bettis representative, explained the company would be hauling 75,000 tons of materials from the quarry to make asphalt for the KDOT projects. He said no matter where the asphalt plant was located, the same amount of materials would be removed from the quarry.
“The rock for this project is coming out of Plummer Creek regardless, so truck traffic will remain exactly the same,” Andersen said.
With the asphalt plant located in the quarry, he said additional traffic would come from hauling in propane, oil and sand.
Andersen said his company had also made an offer to Osage County to provide asphalt from the plant for the county’s road projects.
“That will yield the county roughly $35,000 per year annual savings because of freight savings, because they were driving up to Topeka to get that hot mix,” Andersen said.
Despite Thompson’s admonishment, several residents who live along 189th Street, which serves as a route from the quarry to U.S. Highway 75, spoke about the conditions on the road resulting from truck traffic.
Lynn Morgan, who lives on 189th Street, said increased truck traffic due to the highway projects was the neighbors’ primary concern. Morgan and other neighbors had appeared before the Osage County Commission July 1, asking that commissioners reject the permit due to ongoing problems with the quarrying and trucking operations, including truckers speeding and using “Jake” brakes, uncontrolled dust, and operations outside of permitted hours.
Morgan noted there were few people living along the road, but their quality of life was being impacted by the truck traffic.
“As far as taxpayers are concerned, there aren’t very many of us, we don’t have a lot of weight in this county,” Morgan said. “But we aren’t very happy.”
She said that due to the truck traffic on the road, property values have dropped in the neighborhood.
“If I wanted to sell my home right now, I can’t sell it for what I paid for it,” she said.
Morgan said she was “hoping we’re being heard here. The reality is they’ve already offered incentives to the county, but they haven’t offered any incentives to those who live along the road.”
“They are offering you more incentives,” Thompson said. “They’re going to put in more dust control.”
During discussion of dust control, Adam Gray, a Bettis representative, said the company had been working with county road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson on the dust problem. Gray said the county determines when the dust control chemical, calcium chloride, is applied to the road.
“When Glen Tyson drives up that road and he feels it’s appropriate, he applies it and he bills us and we pay it,” Gray said.
Gray said in addition, the company has agreed to treat an additional 200 feet, or 500 feet total, in front of residences.
Gray also said that Mid States Materials supplies 1,500 tons of rock each year to the county to maintain 189th Street, “free of charge to the county.”
Dan Rogers, a resident on 189th Street who lives near the intersection with U.S. 75, said that regardless of the asphalt plant, the truck traffic is a concern.
“One thing that definitely needs to be addressed is safety,” Rogers said. “Those trucks, the majority of them don’t even stop at that stop sign, the speed they travel up and down that road is absurd.”
Rogers said he has witnessed and heard many near accidents at the intersection with U.S. 75, due to trucks not stopping at the stop sign.
“I hear screeching tires all the time when those trucks come to that stop sign and just make that corner without even slowing down,” Rogers said. “Ask anybody on that road – it happens all of the time.
“It’s just a matter of time before they kill somebody,” he said.
With Thompson answering, “I could show you a lot of cars going around that corner without stopping,” the discussion turned to speeding trucks.
Thompson said that at one time the sheriff’s office had patrolled the road to try to catch speeders.
“Nine cars, not one truck” were ticketed for speeding, he said. “There was real a riot down at this courthouse from the people that got stopped, let me tell you, they were not happy.”
Several of the spectators said no matter who is speeding on the road, it should be stopped, and noted the truckers had CB radios and warned each other when the sheriff’s deputies patrolled the road.
Another area resident, George Waters, said he knows the trucks speed on the road: “I guarantee my radar gun is not as sophisticated as the sheriff’s, but I use mine.”
Resident Steve Morgan suggested to the Bettis representatives that they could solve the problems by not loading unsafe truckers.
“If you hear about a trucker that is speeding consistently and dangerous, just tell them you’re not going to load them,” Morgan said. “If they’re not going to slow down, just don’t fill them.”
Planning commissioner Gerald Sand told the residents, “It’s not all Bettis, I live out there too, guys. I understand your problem, but the quarry is there, they’re going to haul gravel out of there.”
Gray said the company was willing to work with neighbors on the problems.
“If they want to bring something to us that we can help them out … to live a little better or easily together, I’m happy to entertain things,” Gray said. “No one has ever brought anything to us outside of complaints; nobody has ever had any suggestions.”
“We have suggested that you slow your trucks down,” Joan Waters said.
Andersen offered to talk to any truck drivers the residents witness speeding on the road, saying they should write down truck numbers and report them to him.
The discussion ended with planning commissioner Darrel Schultze saying, “Legally it’s permit-able. It’s between them and the sheriff’s office and the county and Tyson. This board has nothing to do with that traffic. I feel for you.”
The planning commissioners unanimously approved Schultze’s motion to recommend approval of the permit to the county commissioners. Thompson said the permit should be the same as one issued about five years ago to Schilling Construction. That permit allowed the company to take the last load of asphalt from the quarry at 6 p.m. on working days.
Land use director Becky Bartley said a public hearing will be held Aug. 19 in front of county commissioners, who have the final say over the permit.