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Ridgeway School leery of batch plant (01/22/2014)
By Chris Rogers
A proposal to operate a short-term concrete batch plant proposed to operate directly next to Ridgeway Community School this summer has raised some concerns among parents. New information about the number of trucks the plant will generate has school officials second guessing their support of the project. Joe Miessen of PCI Roads, who will operate the batch plant and paving operation on I-90, said that, at its peak, the site will generate a truck per minute. That peak will only last ten days, according to the operator's permit application. Ridgeway Community School parents will get a chance to weigh in at tonight's Ridgeway School Board meeting. The County Board will consider approving the batch plant next week.

"That's a lot of trucks," area resident Brian Calteaux told the Winona County Planning Commission last week. The plant would run for a month between May and July, when classes are out of session, but when summer programming will be held at the school. The school can expect some traffic for preparation of the site at the end of the school year, Miessen told county staff. During the first couple weeks, when the company will stockpile concrete mix materials, the site will likely generate 100 trucks per day. When paving activities for I-90 repair work are at full capacity, the site will generate a truck per minute, Miessen told the Planning Commission. Later, he informed county staff that the actual peak traffic number is likely to be 45 trucks per hour.

Calteaux, whose children attend Ridgeway Community School, was concerned about whether the truck traffic would pose a safety risk for students attending summer programming. He also questioned if industrial operations next to the school would become a frequent occurrence. Site owners Tim and Tony Kohner indicated potential interest in using the site for future projects; however, county staff indicated that operators would have to apply for new Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) for any future projects.

The School Board was unable to meet to discuss the batch plant prior to the Planning Commission meeting, but based on initial information, School Coordinator Jodi Dansingburg indicated that the board would likely support the proposal. A representative from the Ridgeway Community Association, which owns the school building, spoke in favor of the petition before the Planning Commission.

"That was before some of the information this one-truck-a-minute information came out," Dansingburg said of her initial support. She said that the truck traffic, as well as the possibility of cement dust pollution or water pollution, were potential concerns for the school.

While the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the County Board approve the batch plant at its next meeting on Tuesday, January 28, Ridgeway parents will get a chance to learn more about the proposal and tell school leaders what they think of the plant at the School Board meeting today, Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the school.

Dansingburg said school leaders need to hear more from county staff, the Kohners and PCI Roads, as well as from parents, before letting the County Board know whether the school is truly supportive of the proposal. "I think we all need to find out some clear and accurate information as to what is going to be involved in this plant," she said.

"I think it was kind of a tight timeframe," Dansingburg said of the window for responding to the proposal. Sometimes it takes a while for public bodies to meet, she explained. A meeting of the School Board earlier this month was cancelled due to weather. "If they want to get information from all of the public entities, it would make sense that they would have given all the boards a chance to meet," she commented.

Dansingburg acknowledged that the operation will be a short-term one and noted new information from PCI Roads that they plan to route trucks away from the school. She said she wanted a very clear answer from county staff to the question: "If we don't like it, what is our ability to stop it from happening again?" 


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