Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vincent, Alabama City Council Says "Yes" To WRQs Vincent Hills Quarry, Residents Still Say "NO"

The following article does not have a link because it appeared in a very small supplement to the Daily Home "The Hometown Marketplace" that serves only Vincent and Harpersville, Alabama. Mr. Smothers has written the fairest and most inclusive article to date of any news agency covering this story.
Kudos to him.

Entire story as it appeared on July 21, 2010
By Jim Smothers
Marketplace Editor

The Town of Vincent's Mayor and Town Council voted five to one Thursday night in favor of a zoning change that will allow White Rock Quarries (WRQ) to develop a limestone aggregate quarry on 886 acres in the Shelby County town.

The meeting was held outside Town Hall to accommodate the expected crowd.

The vote was the culmination of a 15-month effort to inform the public about how the quarry would benefit the town and citizens.

White Rock president Jim Hurley said it would take about a year to get federal, state and county permits to begin work, and about 15 months of site preparation before actual quarrying operations could begin.

The quarry has published estimates of $3 million in sales tax for the Town of Vincent for equipment brought into the quarry. White Rock has pledged $1.6 million in donations to the community once operations begin, and said there would be 123 employees at the quarry at full operation.

City Council member Larry King estimated that, at full operation, the quarry's business license could bring as much as $350,000.00 annually to the town.

"Basic services we have been lacking for years because the town can't afford it." King says.

Vincent's current annual town budget is approximately $500,000.00.

Council member Ralph Kimble asked for a postponement of the meeting as soon as it was called to order so he could go be with his Father who was hospitalized following a Tuesday traffic accident. His motion for a postponement was not seconded.

Town Hall employee Geraldine Waltrip read the ordinance, a legal requirement, which took approximately 40 minutes.

Mayor Ray McAllister asked if council members had any comments.

Kimble asked why the Mayor, other council members and the town's attorney why they had opposed having an independent study done to evaluate the effects a quarry would have on the town.

McAllister replied that he was not opposed to anything, but said the town could not afford to have such a study done.

Kimble reminded the Mayor that assistance had been offered to have such a study done.

Council member King, whose employer manufactures the type of seismic equipment that can be used to monitor blasting from mining operations, said that he would be voting on the issue.

There had been a question as to whether he would have to recuse himself. King said that he had been advised that since his company has no direct business relationship with White Rock Quarries, he would be able to vote.

Bridgette Jordan-Smith said her goal as a council member was to be a great servant to the residents of Vincent and to work to make Vincent a great place to live.

She drew references from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Council member Johnny Edwards said he would let his vote be his comment.

Mary Lee Reynolds said she had served Vincent for 20 years as a city clerk and six years as a council member and she "appreciated the fact that you support me."

Kimble read a prepared press release questioning whether the ordinance being considered would give the Town of Vincent adequate authority over the operation of a limestone quarry to protect the residents of Vincent.

He said Vincent would have no protection if the town's water supply was disrupted or ruined.

"This ordinance has absolutely no teeth and holds no water in terms of making sure that our community isn't turned upside down. There is nothing specific that would allow the Town of Vincent to fine White Rock or suspend operations if they do not comply with the ordinance currently being considered.
We should have the ability to write certain fines for specific violations if they occur to protect our people---for example:
1. Violations of noise
2. Trucks using roads that have not been approved for travel
3. Trucks not properly washing their tires and,
4. Excessive lighting."

"These are all very important details being ignored....my fear is that after such a long debate, an ordinance is rushed through passage that doesn't protect our citizens' or our way of life."

There was no further discussion of the ordinance, nor were any amendments offered to the ordinance.

McAllister asked for a motion. King made a motion to approve the ordinance, with Edwards making the second.

As he voted, Edwards said he was voting yes because 63 percent of the people in his district, which he claims he personally conducted a door-to-door survey of, had told him they were in favor of the quarry.

Kimble was the only member to vote against the ordinance.

Celebrations from quarry supporters were cut short so the council could vote on a related annexation ordinance that would bring the portion of White Rock's land that lies outside of Vincent's current town limits into the town.

That vote also passed with Kimble as the lone dissenter.

EBSCO CEO Dixon Brooke has opposed the quarry due to concerns over possible effects on EBSCO's VIP plant on property adjacent to White Rock property. Brooke said he was disappointed with the outcome.

"We're concerned about what that really means for the future." Brooke said. "I wish White Rock well, certainly. Our concern is not having anything disrupt our operations. We've been in Vincent since 1968 and we'd like to continue to be able to be here."

Quarry opponent Noble Naugle said he was disappointed but not surprised. "I do not think it is a good thing for Vincent overall in the long term." Judy Naugle said "The vote tonight did nothing but strengthen our grip. We will stand firm. This is not over."

Hurley said he was excited about moving forward with the process and repeated White Rock's desire to be a "good neighbor."

"Our employees will be based here, and our management team in the surrounding area." he said. "There will be 123 jobs that will offer employment opportunities for second, third and fourth generations."
#           #            # 

Small towns all across America are dying from lack of revenues and what were once thriving communities are shadows of their former selves--Vincent is one of those towns.

It had some promising chances in the last few years that could have helped to revive it; Rainbird Sprinklers wanted to locate here on some of the land that now belongs to the quarry, 2 subdivisions were proposed to increase Vincent's tax base and lure newcomers, an old golf course was being considered for housing development in neighboring Harpersville.

The interests behind the golf course pulled out when they learned of the quarry coming in; the potential for damage to their development was too much of a liability, not to mention the undesirability of living near a huge mining project--that doesn't play well on a brochure for a residential community.

One proposed developer lost one million dollars on his investment even after he had the assurances of the Vincent Zoning Board that they would "support his subdivision plans." Somewhere along the line, the VZB changed its mind, but only after the investor had 100 of his 200 acres rezoned into the city limits, which moved all the acreage into the city boundaries.

By now, Shelby County had taken over Vincent's planning and their "vision" for this area did not involve community; it was going to be industrial.

All of these projects that were proposed, with the exception of the last one, were positive, community building ideas that could have helped breathe new life into the Vincent area.

All of them were discouraged by the local leaders and the county.

The current Mayor has crowed loudly about bringing businesses and people to Vincent even before he became Mayor, but he helped turn away what could have been forward thinking, long-term community opportunities. So did his sister-in-law Robbie Greene, formerly of the Vincent Planning Commission, and now almost one million dollars richer in another county from the sale of her land to WRQ.

She told the second set of developers that she "just didn't think Vincent was ready for that kind of project." One of the last Mayoral candidates, now on the VZB, ran on a platform of "keeping Vincent small."

But when some Florida bigwigs came into town with their slick talking Jefferson County accomplices waving fistfuls of dollars, and pitching a project that would rip hundreds of acres and tons of Vincent from the ground forever, the welcome mat rolled out in all its glory.

Winks and handshakes went all around from some of the VZB members to the quarry reps after this city council vote. One of them was overheard telling the WRQ reps that "it has been a pleasure doing business with ya'll."

Kind of seems to suggest the fix was in from day one doesn't it?

Rural Shelby County, Alabama's Future
Picture of Calera, Alabama showing two of the 5 quarries on the western side of the county. 
The outlined area in yellow is 65 acres that is due to be auctioned in July 2010 for "new" aggregate land. 
It was once a beautiful farm. 
Google Earth shows the property is full of sinkholes.
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  1. It's about time more of the truth got out.
    Good Max.

  2. You folks got railroaded and I feel for you.


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