Land Reclamation Commission reaches no decision on quarry hearings; closed session continues today

Friday, January 28, 2011
Saxony Lutheran students, staff, parents and other community members board a charter bus headed to Jefferson City in the early hours of Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, at Saxony Lutheran High School. The group will show their opposition to the opening of nearby quarries during a Missouri Land Reclamation Commission meeting in Jefferson City. (Kristin Eberts)

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate who appoints the formal hearing officer.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After a day of testimony for and against two proposed quarries near Saxony Lutheran High School, the Missouri Land Reclamation Commission didn't decide Thursday whether to grant a request for a formal hearing on the mine applications.

Commission members voted to go into closed session to consult with its attorney after testimony was finished, said vice chairman Gregory Haddock, who presided over the meeting.

After meeting in closed session for about an hour, the commission adjourned and is scheduled to continue its closed session at 4 p.m. today via teleconference.

For formal hearings to be granted, opponents must provide good-faith evidence on how health, safety or livelihood will be affected by the issuance of a permit, Haddock said.

A formal hearing would mean more in-depth testimony before an independent hearing officer appointed by the state's Administrative Hearing Commission. That officer would then make a recommendation to the Land Reclamation commission on whether to approve the permits. If a hearing is not granted, the commission would continue its process of considering the permits.

Heartland Materials and Strack Excavating, which are seeking permits to operate limestone quarries off County Road 601 near Fruitland, called geologists, blasting experts and engineers to address concerns raised by local residents and school officials.

More than 130 people from the area attended the meeting, including about 50 people who rode together on a charter bus that left the school at 5 a.m. About 30 students were among those in attendance. Several of them submitted letters to the commission, and junior Sam Breide testified before the commission.

During a recent public comment period, residents and students opposed to the developments flooded the Missouri Department of Natural Resources with more than 5,000 letters and requests for a formal hearing.

Six opponents testified in person, and 18 testified during a one-hour, 13-minute video that was shown to the commission. The video was produced by Abby Petzoldt, president of Save Our Children's Health Inc., representing the residents of the Fruitland area.

Concerns raised by quarry opponents included dust problems, risks to the groundwater supply, increased traffic, destruction of wildlife habitat, structural damage to homes and buildings.

"I think we did everything we could before the commission to work toward ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our students," Saxony principal Craig Ernstmeyer said. "I am humbled and impressed by the strength and support we continue to receive from our community."

Attorneys for both Heartland Materials and Strack Excavating presented testimony to address blasting vibrations, air quality and the effect on groundwater.

Rock quality, market availability, transportation and available land all go into determining the ideal location of a quarry, said Ardel Rueff, a registered geologist who spoke on behalf of Heartland Materials. He said the quality of rock at the company's proposed location is "exceptional" for use as aggregate and agricultural lime.

Vibrations from quarry blasts near Saxony Lutheran High School will be about a quarter of what the state limit is, said Heartland Materials' blasting specialist, Todd Braden of Explosive Contractors of Branson, Mo. He also spoke about a quarry near Branson that has a bus barn 1,100 feet away, one school 2,100 feet away and a second school 3,000 feet away.

In Missouri, 48 schools are within one mile of a quarry, said Brian McGovern, attorney for Strack Excavating, citing a report by the Department of Natural Resources.

Of those 48, seven schools had mine-related issues -- blast vibrations, dust or increased truck traffic, the report said.

Both companies' applications have been recommended for approval by the Department of Natural Resources.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

County Road 601, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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