The county government's competition with local private enterprise became an issue Monday when the BoCC approved its first gravel pit Specific Development application in two years.
Two million cubic yards of gravel from the Cook Pit on 25 Mesa Road will be used on the county's own projects.
The county has a signed contract to purchase two, 80-acre parcels for its gravel and the BoCC's Specific Development approval is one of several contingencies in the sales contract, confirmed county administrator Robbie LeValley. She added that not all the contingencies had been fulfilled as of Monday.
Two other recent Specific Development applications from private individuals for gravel pit operations, one on California Mesa and the other at Crawford, have been denied by the BoCC.
Those applications denied by the BoCC had been recommended for approval by the Delta County Planning Commission. The Planning Commission recommended denial for the 25 Mesa Road that was approved on Monday.
The merry-go-round of approval and denial has left nearby residents of the 25 Mesa Road pit asking what the county policy is trying to accomplish.
The commissioners two previous denials were based substantially on opposition from neighbors. Commissioner Bruce Hovde noted that fact in remarks just prior to Monday's vote. There were neighbors who spoke out against the 25 Mesa Road pit also: Bill Yanish, Gary Haynes, and Susan Yanish.
In addition, the county Planning Commission's chairman Mike Twamley objected to the way that the planning staff had handled the application process. And, Hans Benson who is in the gravel business here pointed out the anti-private enterprise aspects of the BoCC's decision processes.
Twamley's criticism of the planning staff points to a pre-conceived decision by county officials to approve the 25 Road pit application. "We (county planning commission members) were told (by planning staff), 'This is a county project and what the public says doesn't matter,'" Twamley told the BoCC on Monday.
He also criticized a lack of information given to the planning commission on the application, and he said that the county's own rules were broken when the 25 Road property was not physically posted as required.
Neighbors Bill Yanish and Gary Hayner backed Twamley up on the county's posting failure.
Hayner said that a "little" sign was put up, and later a bigger one "when the county got caught." Yanish said the bigger sign was simply taped to a strand of barbed wire and blew away within 24 hours. Property in the county under review for subdivision or specific development are routinely posted with plackard-sized notices, sometimes mounted on stakes driven into the ground.
No one from the county staff denied the charge nor offered any explanation for the posting procedure that was used.
Hayner also told the BoCC that winds in the area will make the county's dust reduction measures meaningless. The composition of airborne dust form the site is unknown. "Not knowing what's in that hill (before excavating) is unacceptable," Hayner said. The dust will also wreck his dog training business, he said.
Yanish agreed with Hayner on the wind and dust problem. It will be a threat to his 11 year-old son who has asthma and walks 200 yards home from his school bus stop.
Yanish's mother, Susan, said the dust, traffic and noise "will totally devastate our family. The county shouldn't be in the gravel business."
Benson, a gravel crusher operator in his family's business, cited the county's own budget figures showing commissioners that government competition with local private enterprise is on an uneven and unfair footing.
"You turn the private gravel pits down and then you want your own pit. Doing it cheaper than private enterprise is the only reason you want to," Benson said. But then, quoting form the county's own budget, he questioned the county's cost accounting for its gravel and operations – the figures being used by the county are way too low, he said.
"There are hundreds of thousands of dollars left out of the figures," Benson said. Specifically he cited the 220 hours the county-owned asphalt plant was used during all of 2010. No private company could afford to own its own asphalt plant with so little usage, he said, adding that the full cost of ownership, including depreciation, is not accounted in other county equipment he researched.
Delta County bought its asphalt plant equipment and pavement recycler several years ago using grant funding from the state.
Benson told the BoCC even with plenty of money to spare in road budget figures that county still aren't put out for private enterprise bid. Plus, commissioners denied the last two private enterprise gravel pit applications it received.
"And," Benson said speaking to the fairness issue, "if private enterprise had failed to post signage like the county did, we'd be done."
In another recent example, a Hotchkiss contractor lost a box culvert job because the county by its figures could do the job for less money. The contractor complained to a road supervisor that he can't compete with the county's operation.
Following the BoCC's unanimous vote approving the specific development application for its own gravel operation, Benson observed, "That's how government gets bigger and private enterprise gets smaller."blog comments powered by Disqus