Wednesday Feb 08, 2023

Washington County residents express concerns over red dirt mine expansion – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


FAYETTEVILLE — Residents of the Wedington Woods area west of Fayetteville went to the county courthouse on Thursday hoping to block the expansion of a red dirt mine in the area.

The residents spoke during the public comment period of the Quorum Court meeting expressing their opposition to an expansion of the Eco-Friendly Materials LLC operation.

Lisa Davison told justices of the peace she has lived in her home in Wedington Woods for 38 years. She said the proposed expansion would bring the dirt mining operation within a few yards of her home. Davison said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is aggravated by the constant noise of the trucks and heavy equipment, along with the blasting done at the quarry site. She said the dirt mine has driven animals from the neighborhood and leaves her home filled with red dust that she is unable to clean up or filter out.

The neighbors complained that they were not given adequate notice of the proposed expansion and that the mining operation should be required to go through the county’s conditional use permit process and to comply with state and federal laws and regulations.

Jake Newcomb, an attorney representing one of the neighbors, argued that the expansion of the mining operations precludes any argument that the use was “grandfathered in” by existing before the county ordinance took effect.

Newcomb also mentioned an inspection report from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality that listed several deficiencies in the mining operation. A copy of the report listed unpermitted outfalls of water on the site, allowing stormwater to bypass a sedimentation pond on the property. The report also indicated there were three additional disturbed areas on the property that were not part of the permit. According to the report, the berms on the sedimentation pond are overgrown with trees and other vegetation that lowered the capacity of the pond by several feet and allows stormwater to bypass the permitted outfall. The report also noted several instances where water sampling or inspections were not documented or did not occur.

The issue was not on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, so no action was taken. Some of the residents were asking justices of the peace after Thursday’s meeting how they can get a place on the Quorum Court’s agenda to have their concerns addressed.

The Quorum Court did approve a Sheriff’s Office plan that will increase pay for Detention Center and communications employees at a cost of about $667,000 for the remainder of 2022.

Chief Deputy Jay Cantrell told the county’s Finance and Budget Committee on June 7 the Sheriff’s Office had unfilled positions so no new money will be required this year.

Cantrell said the Sheriff’s Office had about $222,000 in unspent salaries for the first quarter of the year. The Sheriff’s Office has about 40 open positions in the Detention Center and another seven in the dispatch center.

Sheriff Tim Helder told the county’s Personnel Committee on June 6 that the new pay plan is modeled after one used by the Fayetteville Police Department. Helder told the justices of the peace the county is finding it harder to recruit and retain employees, saying “we don’t match up to our peers” in pay.

The committee also endorsed a number of title changes within the Sheriff’s Office. Cantrell said the changes were mostly “a bookkeeping” matter that allows employees to be moved up in pay when they have reached certain training requirements or time in a pay grade without having …….


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