By Max Hrenda
After months of surveying, policy discussion, and public comments the county’s Highway Committee has come out against widening a county road to accommodate the reopening of a quarry.
Since Feb. 11, residents of Judge Ben Allen Road have appeared before the committee to protest the proposed widening. Although the company, Aggregates USA, had previously offered to cover construction costs, on Monday morning the committee voted 7-1 in line with residents’ concerns.
“This committee recommends leaving Judge Ben Allen Road as is, as requested by the citizens,” said Committee Chairman Joel Street.
While acknowledging the committee’s recommendation was not what he was hoping for, Aggregates USA Sales Manager Jim McGill said his company still intends to reopen the quarry.
“I’m a little disappointed, but I understand,” McGill said, after the meeting. “The neighbors said they didn’t want it widened, so the committee did what they said. I think it would be better for us and the neighbors, but we’re OK to go in like it is.”
While the committee voted in line with citizen concerns, Commissioner Sonja Culler reminded those in attendance that the vote was a suggestion for Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins.
“Ultimately, it’s Mr. Perkins’ decision,” Culler said. “We’re just making a recommendation.”
After the meeting, Perkins said that while he will take the committee’s recommendation under advisement, he had yet to make a final decision on whether or not to widen the road.
“I didn’t make my decision this morning,” Perkins said. “I’m going to roll it around a little bit first.”
Perkins added that he expected to reach his decision by sometime next week.
During the committee’s last meeting on April 8, a compromise appeared to be reached when County Planning Director Chris Schuettler proposed connecting the quarry with the industrial road running through the Carter County Landfill. At the outset of Monday’s meeting, however, Schuettler told the committee that alternative would be too costly.
“Logistically, it’s a doable situation, but financially, it may not be,” Schuettler said. “Unless somebody is willing to foot the bill of almost ($750,000), I don’t foresee it being feasible.”
Although Aggregates USA offered to pay for the widening of Judge Ben Allen Road, McGill said during the meeting that the $750,000 needed for the alternate route was “beyond our budget.”
Though the road may remain unchanged, certain residents and one county commissioner expressed their opposition to the quarry itself.