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Editorial: Asphalt plant public hearings begin this week in Bonham
By Allen Rich
Apr 23, 2019
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Public Hearing before the Lake Zoning Commission - 8:15 a.m., Wednesday, April 24 at Bonham City Hall

Public hearing before Fannin County Commissioners Court regarding Specific Use Permit for temporary asphalt plant -  8:00 a.m., Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at Bonham City Hall

It is only human nature to learn that an asphalt plant is planned for someone else's neighborhood and call it "progress."

Progress, to me, is when Brookshire Grocery Company made a $20 million investment in our community by building a modern grocery store and pharmacy that now employs 120 people.

So, here is my question to the group that keeps tossing "progress" around. 

How do you think the folks at Brookshire's feel now that we have a plan to slam-dunk an asphalt plant into their neighborhood? Do you think we really considered them?

Maybe we will find out at the first public hearing on Wednesday.

In addition to the obvious environmental concerns of placing an asphalt plant in the city limits, the area around this popular grocery store is already heavily congested during peak traffic periods and the intersection of US 82 and Hwy 78 is dangerous enough right now.

And how does the management of the low-income retirement village just down the street from the proposed location of an asphalt plant feel about this "progress."

Maybe we will find out Wednesday.

Let me tell you what I have found out so far.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that the agenda items need to be written in a descriptive and transparent manner that allows constituents to know exactly what is happening. The first mention of plans to build an asphalt plant in the city limits came in an agenda for a commissioners court meeting regarding "a Special Use Permit for land usage at the corner of Pecan and Bicentennial" in Bonham. That doesn't tell anyone anything. If you are thinking about building an asphalt plant in the Bonham city limits, please say so in the agenda.

You shouldn't have to be an insider to know what the chief executive board of the county is considering. Write every agenda item in such simple terms that even a simple hillbilly like me with just common walking around sense will know exactly what you are talking about.

As one reader suggested, "Make it in plain English."

Amen.

I found out that there were no discussions prior to January 1, 2019, regarding the proposed site of this asphalt plant. The first discussion on public record that I am aware of came during a regular meeting of Fannin County Commissioners Court on March 12 when commissioners unanimously voted to initiate the application process for issuing a Special Use Permit to Austin Bridge & Road for land usage at the corner of Pecan and Bicentennial in Bonham.

Another thing I found out was that none of the county residents and businesses that stood the greatest chance of being impacted by the construction of this asphalt plant had been notified. I drove to the retirement village, sat in the parking lot for a minute, and then drove down the street to where the asphalt plant is likely to be built. I drove back to the retirement village and parked. Personally, I'm no expert on environmental pollution, so I got out and asked a resident if they were aware of plans to build an asphalt plant down the street?

"I heard yesterday," was the reply.

"Are you concerned?" I asked.

I was told that this is the segment of the population that is most likely to already be dealing with breathing issues and allergies.

Another thing I needed to find out was, "What's it like to live near an asphalt plant?"

There is one county resident who lived north of the site of a former asphalt plant on Silo Road, so I knocked on his door.

"Please excuse me for disturbing you," I began, "but we are thinking about building an asphalt plant in another part of town and it occurred to me that you could tell me exactly what it was like to live near an asphalt plant...did it stink?"

He thought for a second and responded, "Depended on which way the wind was blowing."

I was considering his answer when his follow-up floored me.

"I wish I had the asphalt plant back," the resident told me.

"What?" I asked.

According to this resident, the noise from the trash transfer station that now occupies the site of this former asphalt plant is even more disruptive than the smell of asphalt.

Pollution comes in many forms and perhaps worse things can happen than having an asphalt plant for a neighbor.

That brings us back to progress.

As progress accelerates, there will be more winners and losers.  When someone is concerned because an asphalt plant is coming to the neighborhood, they don't want to hear it called "progress."  If you bring a library to a neighborhood, that's progress. Build a community swimming pool -- that's progress. But if someone feels their quality of life will be impacted by an asphalt plant, they want to know their representatives understand that concern.

Progress, to me, would be informing county residents in a transparent and timely manner, followed by public meetings to gather and discuss input. Then we explain in detail how a particular decision was carefully deliberated and what data resulted in a conclusion that was the best possible alternative for residents. None of that works unless you inform county residents in the first place.

If we can make that commitment, we've made progress.