Orem city officials gave Western Quality Concrete written permission to stockpile and recycle road materials - essentially the permission to set up the processing or "batch" plant on Orem Boulevard that's been annoying neighbors all summer.
They just didn't tell the City Council or the mayor before trouble over the activity reached "critical mass," as the mayor puts it."They (Western Quality Concrete) were given permission to do just exactly what they have been doing,' said Mayor Stella Welsh, following an on-site discussion with ruffled residents who filed into a recent City Council meeting to register their unhappiness with the noise and dust.
"They (the staff) didn't realize the scope of what was being asked. I think that was part of the problem," said the mayor.
At the council meeting, city engineer Ed Gifford said he had been asked by the construction company if it could stockpile material dug up from the work on State Street. But he said it was not understood that a batching plant would be the result.
Neighbors, including residents Steven Crowley and Anna Lolotai, said the work has created intolerable noise and pollution that disturbs area homeowners around the clock. "Have you seen those mountains of dirt?" Crowley asked.
Lolotai said the dust and emissions raised on the site have created serious health problems for youngsters and the elderly nearby. Crowley and Lolotai said they had repeatedly asked for help from the city and received little or no response until they approached the council.
Councilman Stephen Sandstrom said the council should have been consulted before such permission was given, especially since the area falls within an area zoned only for residential use. He is calling for such matters to come before the council in the future.
Assistant City Manager Jim Reams said it wouldn't really matter in a similar situation because Western Quality is under contract with the Utah Department of Transportation to do the work on State Street.
"When we work with UDOT, you're working with the state and they are not subject to our rules," said Reams. "Western Quality did apply and make us aware of their intentions. We did give them a letter from Public Works approving their request."
Reams confirmed that the City Council was not made aware of the request and "they should have been. Now, we're just all anxious to have it complete."
Welsh echoed Reams' sentiment: "I'll just be glad when it's over." However, despite the tension the situation has caused, the mayor said having the batch plant so accessible to the State Street work has sped up the reconstruction efforts, a plus for businesses that lose customers while the road is torn apart.
"I have great empathy for the neighbors," said Welsh. But getting the street done is a top priority, she said, and "we don't control UDOT. We granted permission as sort of a courtesy. I'm not sure we could have stopped them."
Alan Ellis, president of Western Quality Concrete, based in Mapleton, said his company did what it was supposed to do and obtained permission to operate as it has from both the city and from the state Division of Air Quality. Ellis denied allegations from the neighbors that work went on 24 hours a day seven days a week although neighbors claim to have kept logs and recordings that prove otherwise.
Ellis also promised to shut down activities on the site by Nov. 15. However, activity the past two weekends has been accelerated, said Reams. "Probably because they're trying to do everything in daytime hours now."
After Nov. 15, the property is going to be developed for condominiums.
Crowley said while that will still be mildly disruptive, the neighborhood is looking forward to a real reduction in stress and noise.