Proposal for new quarry south of Eudora will go back to planning commissions; some residents voice concerns, threaten legal action

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Rich Eckert, the general counsel for Topeka-based construction materials company Mid-States Materials, speaks during the Douglas County Commission's Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 meeting. Mid-States Materials wants to break ground on a limestone quarry just south of Eudora.

Douglas County leaders decided Wednesday to send an application for a new quarry in Eudora back to planning officials for further consideration, and several residents voiced their concerns and even threatened to sue to stop the project.

Topeka-based construction materials company Mid-States Materials is seeking a conditional use permit to break ground on a limestone quarry just south of Eudora, directly adjacent to the existing Hamm Quarry. Previously, the entire seven-member Eudora Planning Commission and all but two members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended that the permit be denied. However, at its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission decided to send the quarry application back to the planning commissions for another round of reviews.

Mid-States Materials’ general counsel, Rich Eckert, said the company thought one of the public’s primary concerns with the plan was a proposed truck route for hauling materials that would have run past Eudora’s middle and high schools. Now, the company is revising that element of the plan. Instead of running trucks past the schools, which are located less than 2 miles from the proposed quarry site, Mid-States Materials is proposing a revenue plan to rebuild and resurface East 2300 Road from near the quarry up to the intersection of Kansas Highway 10 about 2 miles to the north.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission

A map shows various phases for a proposed quarry at 1174 E. 2300 Road southeast of Eudora. Topeka-based Mid-States Materials is seeking a conditional use permit to operate a limestone quarry on 242 acres there, right near the existing Hamm Quarry.

While the commission didn’t make any decisions beyond sending the application back to the planning commissions, that didn’t stop more than a dozen people from commenting about it during the meeting. The majority of them said they were against a new quarry for a variety of reasons beyond the proposed truck route.

Multiple commenters worried about how the project might impact the growth Eudora is expecting as a result of Panasonic’s $4 billion, 4,000-job electric vehicle battery plant that’s coming to nearby De Soto. Other neighbors said they were worried another quarry would have a number of adverse effects on their quality of life, property values, the environment and more.

One Eudora resident, Keith Turnbaugh, even told commissioners he and other residents would likely sue to delay a quarry from operating if the commission decided to approve Mid-States Materials’ conditional use permit.

The County Commission declined to hear any specific details about the project on Wednesday evening, but all three commissioners agreed that Mid-States Materials and the planning commissions should ensure they’re reviewing more concerns than just the truck route.

“I think the applicant is well aware it’ll be a heavy lift with the community to get a different result than previously, but I always appreciate an applicant that is interested in responding to the concerns that the public brings forward,” Commissioner Karen Willey said.

• • •

In other business, the commission:

• Adopted a revised finance policy for the county by a 2-1 vote, with Willey voting no.

The revised policy includes a number of changes, such as higher purchasing thresholds. The old policy allowed department heads to approve purchases up to $20,000 and the county administrator to approve purchases up to $50,000. Anything higher than that needed the County Commission’s approval. The new one increases the thresholds for department head and county administrator approvals to $50,000 and $100,000, respectively. Commission approval is required for anything higher than $100,000.

The last time this policy was amended, in 2016, it increased the budget authority for such purchases by 24% compared to its previous 2009 iteration. The newest version, meanwhile, increases that budget authority by a much higher percentage, 85%, and commissioners said such a big jump was concerning.

The county’s finance manager, Brooke Sauer, told commissioners that the change was partly meant to alleviate current market pressures on purchasing vehicles and other equipment. Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky added that most purchases the commission has to approve already exceed $100,000, and the change allows the county to execute purchase orders more quickly in the event of a pressing need or emergency, such as current ongoing repairs for the Douglas County Courthouse elevator.

“Vendors aren’t moving unless we give them a purchase order,” Plinsky said.

• Approved an amended mental health services contract for the Douglas County Jail.

That contract, Douglas County Sheriff Jay Armbrister told commissioners, is a pretty “standard” agreement with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to provide mental health care services to jail inmates, which is renewed on an annual basis. Because of Bert Nash’s status as a certified community behavioral health clinic, additional support funding allows the sheriff’s office to hire two more part-time mental health peer support personnel in addition to the three mental health professionals who already work at the facility under the contract.


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