Rutland Herald

Residents divided over OMYA trucking plan

June 7, 2000
By SANDI SWITZER Herald Correspondent

WALLINGFORD - An OMYA Inc. proposal to begin quarrying operations in nearby Danby drew a mixed response from Wallingford residents at a public forum.

About 65 people gathered at the local elementary school this week to let the Wallingford Select Board know what they think about OMYA's plan to mine the Jobe Phillips Quarry.

The company wants to extract marble ore from the site located near Danby Four Corners, and haul the material through Wallingford to a processing plant in Florence.

A divided crowd addressed both sides of the issue Monday, with some residents objecting to the proposal due to safety and quality-of-life concerns, while others spoke glowingly of OMYA's reputation for being a good neighbor.

Robert Burdick said he drove a truck for OMYA for five years, and the company had a good safety record.

"The roads should be open to the trucks. It's work for the people, it's jobs," he said.

Earl Rand of East Wallingford said he supported economic expansion and agreed experts should be used to examine the plan.

"I'd like to see local and regional government take the attitude of 'Why can't we do this?'" he said.

Some residents suggested the Select Board would be setting a "dangerous precedent" by limiting traffic through town.

Former Selectwoman Bea Tanner and state House candidate Ronald Boucher said it would be unfair to discriminate against one company.

But others were not as eager to support the proposal, which has a 50-year lifespan and would include 80 truck trips a day on Routes 140 and 7, six days a week.

"It could be a major economic impact on the town for the cost of upgrading the roads," Robert Soule said. "Fifty years is an awfully long time. That's the rest of the lives of almost all of us here."

Anne Miller questioned the noise pollution. Wendy Savery and Susan Duskiewicz were concerned about children crossing Route 140 to attend recreational programs. Virginia Hallblom said it would have a negative impact on tourism. And Ralph Nimtz said "trucks are destroying this village."

Several residents urged OMYA officials to explore using railways to haul its material.

"The topography doesn't allow for a railroad to be built easily up to the site," said John Mitchell, OMYA's executive vice president.

He added that the company studied several options but considered the designated haul route the safest and most economically feasible one.

Harry Carter, president of L.F. Carter, which provides trucking services for OMYA, said his company had an exceptional safety record, and a no-tolerance policy on speeding.

One resident asked whether the company would consider compensatory benefits to people most affected by the project.

Mitchell said OMYA paid out about $2 million a year in property taxes to 30 Vermont communities, including $25,000 to Wallingford.

"I think it would be very dangerous to establish a quid pro quo for doing business in a town," he said.

The quarry project would create 25 to 30 new jobs, with an average salary of $30,000 a year, according to John Sutton of OMYA's human resources division.

Select Board Chairman Chris Dinnan told the crowd that the board had voted at a previous meeting to spend up to $1,500 to hire an engineer to study Route 140 and other roads.