ELIZABETHTON — Residents of Judge Ben Allen Road in the Stoney Creek community were disappointed to learn Monday that an old rock quarry will be placed back in operation this year after it had remained idle for nearly two decades.
The residents received some comfort during Monday’s meeting of the Highway Committee of the Carter County Commission when a surprise proposal was introduced that may route the dump trucks through the Carter County Landfill instead of through the middle of their neighborhood.
The news that the quarry was going to reopen was announced during the meeting by Jim McGill, a manager for Aggregates USA.
Many neighborhood members attended the meeting, just as they had attended last month’s meeting of the committee to express opposition to the reopening of the quarry and to request that Judge Ben Allen Road not be made more convenient for dump trucks by widening the road or making other improvements.
McGill addressed some of the concerns the citizens had expressed during the March meeting, which he did not attend, but read about in newspaper stories.
“We are very strictly regulated,” McGill said. The quarry must follow the regulations of both the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency, McGill said.
He said the quarry’s main private road will be paved to lessen the effect of dust.
Another community concern was blasting. McGill said blasts will be set to cause only half the disturbance permitted by the regulations. McGill said the disturbance from blasts is measured by movement in inches per second. He said 2 inches of ground movement per second is permitted, but the quarry will never exceed 1 inch per second. He said it takes 3 inches per second to crack masonry.
One of the biggest concerns of the community has been the worry about dump trucks loaded with 20 tons of rock traveling on Judge Ben Allen Road, a narrow and curvy road.
McGill said Aggregates USA is willing to contract and pay for the widening of the road, using only the county’s right of way and taking no additional land.
Several of the residents said they were not in favor of widening the road because it would just encourage the dump trucks to drive faster. Jack Buckles was one resident who was in favor of the county taking advantage of Aggregates’ offer. Buckles said most of those who were opposed lived in the lower sections of the road, which were already straight and wide. He and his family had to negotiate the narrow sections of the road several times a day.
Rab Summers, chairman of the board of Summers Taylor, a regional highway contractor, said the material that will be obtained from the quarry is the quality that the Tennessee Department of Transportation requires for its projects.
“Here is a company that wants to make a substantial investment in our county,” Summers said. “I don’t see how you can say you won’t take their offer to improve this road and make it safe.”
McGill said the opening of the quarry would create six new jobs and its operations would result in $20,000 a year in mining severance taxes as well as sales taxes.
David Bautista, a resident of Judge Ben Allen Road and one of the founders of the Carter County Tomorrow economic development organization, said those revenues would more than be offset by the loss in property tax dollars when the now highly desirable homes in the neighborhood had their property values severely depressed.
Bautista said he did not believe in turning away jobs, but adding six jobs and depressing the property values “is not moving your county forward.”
Before the committee could act on the offer to accept or reject Aggregates’ offer to improve the road, Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler stepped forward with an alternative.
He said trucks could be routed away from Judge Ben Allen Road by asking Aggregate to establish a new road that would run through the Carter County Landfill. He said an old trace called Turkeytown Road runs from Judge Ben Allen Road to the landfill.
Instead of using the money to widen Judge Ben Allen Road, he suggested Aggregate could upgrade Turkeytown Road and the main service road through the landfill. That would take the dump trucks to Minton Hollow Road, where they could turn right to reach U.S. Highway 19E or left to reach Tenn. Highway 91. Because Minton Hollow Road is already used by garbage trucks, the additional 2 or 3 dump trucks per hour, on average, should not have as big an impact on the community.
Schuettler’s proposal was new and neither the committee or Aggregate had heard about it. The committee voted to table its decision on Aggregate’s offer to widen Judge Ben Allen Road until it could study Schuettler’s idea.