Twenty-five years can be a long time. And when Haines & Kibblehouse recently requested to amend their agreement with Hilltown Township to continue operating the Blooming Glen Quarry 25 years past the scheduled August 2020 closure date it was certain to be an explosive issue.
On Wednesday night the Hilltown Township Board of Supervisors held a public forum in the quaint Bucks County township to examine the ramifications of an extension and gauge public sentiment before making any decisions on the proposal. Residents were allowed to ask H & K officials questions, but restricted from questioning township supervisors during the forum.
As a result of the economic downturn the past few years and specifically in the materials and construction industries, production at the quarry has sharply declined and projections for the future reveal that “available reserves at Blooming Glen will not be exhausted by that 2020 deadline”, according to the request filed by H &K in a September 24th, 2012 letter to township supervisors.
As such, H & K argued that based upon the investment they made in the operation and projected reclamation costs that it would be “impractical” to abandon available reserves. And that additional trucking would need to be added to the operation in order to extract all available reserve and ship them to the H & K Materials operation by the deadline.
Hence the alternative solution offered by H & K, that would, in their filed request prove “mutually beneficial to both the township and H & K.”
But not all residents agreed. The sometimes messy realities of industrial work includes, according to sentiments expressed Wednesday night during the forum, blasts of explosives, increased truck traffic on rural roads, dirt and grime, and potential water supply issues.
“It’s like we are up against Goliath,” said township resident Judy Greenhalgh of dealing with H & K.
Greenhalgh peppered H & K officials with several questions and statements, including on several issues, including on her noticing “untarped trucks filled with dirt” on roads throughout the township.
“I’m surprised by that,” said John Haines, IV, who was seated at a table in the front of the room. “But I believe you are telling the truth. You’re a 100 percent right.”
Greenhalgh noted that she was very concerned about the quarry’s reclamation, environmental impact, water use and future agenda.
Other residents continued in the same vein.
“I’m at a loss to see what the township is getting out of it,” said township resident Ken Rush. “I don’t get the upside.”
And “upside” was brought into question several times during the evening, to one degree or another, by the residents who spoke. H & K officials have proposed, under the auspice of remaining open for another quarter century that they would increase how much they pay the township for each ton of 1B and 2B stone mined and sold from 10 to 35 cents. One of the fissures with that offer, according to township resident John Apple, is that there are other stone types and grades from the Blooming Glen Quarry that would not be subject to that increase.
The quarry also has proposed the figure of $100,000 as the minimum annual fee they would pay the township in exchange for the extension. The company has also agreed to turn the Blooming Glen Quarry into a recreational lake when the property is turned over to the township in 2045.
Another major issue cited by several residents was the reclamation angle.
On the opposite side of the coin, a few township residents noted that H & K had been fair to deal with and a “good neighbor.”
But even that evaluation was not unanimous.
“You’re not a good neighbor,” said township resident Chuck Weinberg to H & K officials.
At the conclusion of the 2 ½ hour meeting, Chairman Barbara Salvadore said she was “not sure” when township officials would comment on what came out of the public hearing.