Asphalt plant opponents keep up pressure

Julie Parent
Columbus Reporter

Since July, some residents of Columbus and the surrounding area have been trying to stop Bituminous Roadways, Inc. from opening a new asphalt plant location in Columbus. The residents are opposed to the smell, the dust, and the noise they believe the plant will create. Some have also complained that the plant would be located in an area where the city once hoped for a more commercially-focused business instead of light industrial development.

The property the proposed asphalt plant would be built on is located at 13345 and 13363 West Freeway Dr. This land, known as the “Triangle property,” is just south of the Interstate Highway 35 split near Running Aces Casino and Racetrack. Running Aces CEO Taro Ito is worried that the asphalt plant, which would be built a few miles south of the business, will have a negative effect on the casino’s business and the health of the horses who race at the track, and in August, the business suspended plans to build a hotel next to the Running Aces facility.

At the Columbus City Council’s July 26 meeting, attorney Anthony Edwards requested on behalf of concerned citizens and himself that Bituminous Roadways complete an environmental assessment worksheet to determine if the company’s operations would negatively affect the environment. At the council’s Sept. 27 meeting, the council was told that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency had denied the petition to prepare an EAW. The agency concluded that the environmental effects that could result from the project are not significant.

Running Aces hired McComb Group do an evaluation of the proposed plant. City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko received the evaluation the day of the meeting. However, the council didn’t go over the summary.

“When there is so much public interest, we start to lose sight of our own process,” City Attorney Bill Griffith, Jr. told the council. “The public doesn’t have the right to testify until the public hearing.”

Councilman Bill Krebs did page through the evaluation, which included plant pictures.

“The pictures aren’t even close to what the applicant is proposing,” he remarked.

At press time, a public hearing date had not yet been set.

Levy and other business

The council also approved Columbus’s preliminary levy for 2018 at approximately $2.96 million, roughly a $198,500 increase from the 2017 levy of $2.76 million. The preliminary levy can only be lowered or remain at its current level before it is approved in December; it cannot be raised. Though the levy went up, the city’s projected tax capacity also rose considerably, which kept the city tax rate from rising very much, moving from 50.41 to 51.83. According to Mursko, the net tax increase to property owners would be about 2.82 percent. More than one-fourth of the budget increase is to pay the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department for its services after contract costs increased.

After receiving a complaint about the lack of striping on Hornsby Street, Public Works Superintendent Jim Windingstad gathered estimates for the cost to do the striping. The lowest estimate to do a double yellow line in the center of the street was $2,450. Mayor Dave Povolny felt the road should be striped for safety reasons, but the council voted 3-2 to not stripe the road, because the city will likely close the road when Shafer Contracting starts hauling materials on it for the Interstate 35 bridge project. Councilman Mark Daly joined Povolny in the minority.