Neighbors want answers about E. State St. asphalt plant proposal
By Jim Hagerty
After several years of controversy and a tie-breaking vote by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) to approve a Mulford Road asphalt plant, the project is proposed to be sited elsewhere.
William Charles Construction announced Tuesday, July 19, its plan to use the East State Street quarry it purchased last year to build the plant. That means the Mulford project, approved in 2008, may be abandoned.
A lawsuit against the Mulford plant, as of this report, was still pending. Reports say a settlement in the case is the promulgation for the proposal to build the plant at the East State Street location.
Those close to the new proposed location — residents of Fox Ridge subdivision — have voiced concerns despite assurance that the plant will be safe.
While Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) called the East State quarry “a better site for everyone involved,” Fox Ridge neighbors pointed out that the plant would be just east of the NIU Rockford Education Center campus and Mildred Berry Center, a children’s mental health facility. The AMC Showplace 16 movie theater is also across the street.
To the residents of Fox Ridge, the announcement of the operation came with unanswered questions they hope will be answered Thursday, July 28, at a public meeting.
“I would prefer they not do it at all,” Nichole Sammon, who lives close to the quarry, said. “But, I don’t have enough information to say yes or no. I want to understand exactly what they are proposing.”
While details of the operation aren’t known, William Charles spokesmen said the company will continue the limestone processing operation at the East State Street location in addition to the asphalt plant. Both ventures will be safe, and neighbors will be informed at Thursday’s meeting, at the NIU Rockford Education Center.
“William Charles strives to be a good neighbor and considers the impact our business has on those around us,” said Timothy Jagielski, assistant counsel, William Charles, Ltd. “We understand our neighbors have questions and concerns. We thought it would be a good idea to host an informational meeting and allow everyone to come together to learn about asphalt production and what our plans are for the State Street quarry.”
According to state law, asphalt plants are highly regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Each site must pose no health concerns. A six-year study, announced in 2002, indicated asphalt plants are no longer on the EPA’s list of industries considered major sources of hazardous air pollutants. Officials say asphalt plants were removed from the list because of significant production improvements.
According to IEPA data, William Charles has not applied for permits for the new plant as of press time. Company spokesmen said applications would be submitted after their proposal moves through the zoning process. A Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on the matter is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the Winnebago County Administration Building, 404 Elm St., Room 303.
The matter will then be presented to the Zoning Committee, and then the full Winnebago County Board.
If the county gives the plan a green light, William Charles said it will adhere to EPA standards and those set by other regulatory agencies.
Permits and regulations aside, some Fox Ridge residents want no part of living near an asphalt plant.
“Along with the toxins in the air and the smell, it’s the noise,” Ray Johnson said. “We are a half-mile from the quarry, and I think they will be operating from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. But, it could be a 24-hour thing with the noise and beeping from the trucks.”
The quarry was purchased from Schlichting & Sons Excavating in 2010. The company operated a limestone processing business at the location for 30 years.
If the plant is approved by the Winnebago County Board, it could be in operation by spring 2012. William Charles will also close its Nimtz Road asphalt plant by the end of 2011.
Thursday’s informational meeting is at 5:30 p.m. The NIU Rockford Education Center is at 8500 E. State St.
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