Approved Howard asphalt plant moving ahead, despite officials’ questioning

Brown County Highway Dept. expects pieces of its new asphalt plant to arrive in the next few weeks. The portable plant will be installed at the county highway yard in Howard.
Brown County Highway Dept. expects pieces of its new asphalt plant to arrive in the next few weeks. The portable plant will be installed at the county highway yard in Howard.

CORRECTION: The figures for the cost of the county leasing the plant have been corrected to reflect a full year of lease payments.

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HOWARD – Paving roads can be an expensive project. So in an effort to save taxpayer dollars, the Brown County Highway Department is setting up its own asphalt plant.

The $2.6 million portable plant hasn’t even been delivered yet – some pieces are still being made. The county has said it will move the plant elsewhere by 2016, at the latest.

But some officials want it moved elsewhere – and now.

Lower cost, better quality

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the county’s Duck Creek highway department yard in Howard is where the plant will be set up.

“This plant is state of the art,” explained Bob Bousley, who is the highway department operations manager. “There’s going to be some residual smell, but it’s going to be very minimal. The noise from the plant is very minimal as well.”

Like a car, the county’s leasing the plant with an option to buy. Bousley says the roughly $400,000 a year cost is justified – as the county estimates it will save $250,000 on asphalt this year and up to $700,000 a year after that.

Bousley says because the plant will produce a lower cost, more durable product, the savings over the plant’s 20-year lifespan could be in the millions – and also mean less roadwork.

“If we’re getting the extra 20 percent pavement life out of the asphalt, that’s an unrealized savings too,” said Bousley, “because now we’re not paving our roads as often.”

Not in my backyard

“Find another location,” said David Steffen.

Steffen is a Village of Howard trustee and a county supervisor. He’s also running for state Assembly.

This week, the village sent a letter to the county executive this week, urging the county reconsider the plant’s location.

“Right now, we have every major entry and exit point into this community under construction,” said Steffen. “The last thing we need to have is another layer of construction vehicles as it relates to this asphalt plant.”

A county report from last October shows the county yard – which sits adjacent to a water-filled quarry – as the preferred site for the project (the village has long-term plans on the books to redevelop the property).

“I think that’s one of the issues,” said Steffen of the redevelopment plans, “but it’s not the primary one.”

Steffen doesn’t sit on the county committee that approved the plant, but did vote for it in the budget last November.

“So some of the details that ended up coming out since the November vote, have certainly changed the makeup of this decision,” said Steffen.

“But isn’t it your job as an elected official to be aware of everything that’s going on with the county?” pressed FOX 11’s Bill Miston.

“It would be fantastic if every elected official was aware of everything that was happening,” Steffen replied.

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