State and Province News March 2012
| March 21, 2012
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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.
At its annual convention, members of the Missouri Limestone Producers Association (MLPA) elected the following officers: Rodney Linker, president; John Griesemer, vice president; and Dick Kaler, secretary-treasurer. Producer members elected to serve three-year terms include Mark Bussen, Bussen Quarries; Zach Green, Delta Companies; Todd Griesemer, Anchor Stone Co.; and Dick Kaler, Hunt Martin Materials. The MLPA board elected Randy Bailey, Bailey Quarries, to serve a one-year unexpired term and Steve Rust, Riverstone Quarries, to serve a two-year unexpired term. Sam Hayes, The G.W. Van Keppel Co., represents associate members on the board.
S.A. Dun Sand & Gravel Co. owners are seeking state permission to expand their mine, as well as to use it to dispose of construction and demolition debris once mining is complete. According to the Times Union, the company wants to expand the 58-acre mine by an additional 10.5 acres. If approved, it would still be subject to the 100 truck trips per day limitation that has been in place since the mine received its last approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 1993.
The Warren County Coroner’s Office ruled that the death of a 31-year-old man whose body was found in Oeder and Sons Sand and Gravel pit was accidental. The Middletown Journal reports that workers found the wrecked car of the victim at the site. He was apparently driving along a road bordering the operation when he lost control of the vehicle. The car traveled off the highway into the quarry, out of the road’s sight lines. Based on footprints around the car, officials believe he got out of the passenger side of the car before the vehicle shifted in the gravel and trapped him beneath the car in a large pool of water where he drowned. There were no signs of foul play.
The Associate Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Aggregate and Concrete Association (PACA) announced that Lou Harris of Clifton Steel Co. has been elected to serve a three-year term (2012-2014) as PACA director.
For a number of years, Martin Stone Quarries, Inc. has partnered with the local Washington Elementary School to enhance student learning of rocks and minerals through a field trip to its site. When recent school budget cuts forced the elimination of this year’s field trip, quarry representatives worked with the teaching staff to bring the field trip to the students. Rod Martin talked to one class about the quarry and aggregate production, while senior sales representative Eric Gehman presented an introductory program about wetlands and a project undertaken by Martin Stone Quarries to create large wetlands adjacent to one of its quarries. Students received a photo of a Martin Stone Quarries dump truck and t-shirt at the end of the program.
Jerry’s Delta Sand and Gravel provided free sand and sand bags to area residents facing floods. According to KVAL 13, residents were able to pick up those supplies at home improvement centers in Springfield and Eugene, as well as county locations.
Workers at Vulcan Materials Co.’s Liberty Quarry worked with members of the local fire department to sharpen their safety skills. According to The Pickens Sentinel, the operation hosted a fire extinguisher training session for its employees. “Safety is number one in our industry, and we want to stay sharp,” Plant Manager Tracy Snapp told the newspaper. “It is our goal that everyone who works here leaves safely every day. If you don’t think about these things on a regular basis, then when an emergency does happen, you don’t know what to do.” As part of the company’s partnering efforts with the fire department, it also provides space for firefighters to practice life-saving situations.
Ash Grove Cement Co.’s Seattle plant received the Association of Washington Business’ Better Workplace Safety Award from Gov. Chris Gregoire. “This is an important recognition of our team’s efforts, because safety is a cornerstone of how we operate every minute of every hour of every day,” Plant Manager Todd Hinton said in a company press release. According to the company’s corporate director of health and safety, each of the company’s eight manufacturing plants actively participates in the company’s health and safety management system, which includes injury prevention, compliance management, audits, and training to ensure a safe work environment for employees.
Lafarge’s Stonewall Aggregates received international recognition for its contributions to wildlife habitat conservation at the Wildlife Habitat Council’s (WHC) 23rd Annual Symposium. According to WHC, the site was honored for its commitment to environmental stewardship and increasing native biodiversity by achieving Wildlife at Work certification. The 1,300-acre site is located in southern Manitoba and is surrounded by property that is either farmed or mined. The Wildlife Management Team is working with the University of Winnipeg on an innovative composting and reclamation project that aims to restore the site to an ecological status that is similar to the undisturbed condition. In addition, it has engaged in several outreach and education events.