Mine requests assistance with road project
For years, the road in Consumers tto Clear Creek has been highly traveled, with minimal maintenance to the gravel, dirt and rock surface.
In the last year, the county has completed some surfacing work on the road. But the section from Questar's compressor station to Horizon mine has been maintained mostly by the company.
There are plans in the works by the company, Splendor Resources, to improve the road by putting rotomill on the unpaved sections leading to the mine. Company vice president Alex Walker approached to the Carbon County Transportation and Recreation Special Service District to request assistance with the project.
"At present, there is 4.5 miles of gravel on the road that we maintain," explained Walker. "We have been looking at options to pave that road and now we have decided to use rotomill because there is so much of it presently available."
Rotomill is a product that is produced when at certain road project contractors remove the top layers of asphalt from highways.
Right now, there is a lot available because of various projects in the eastern Utah area. Once removed, the product can be laid down with minimal preparation and cost as compared with hot mix or concrete.
"The point is that we realize we need this road done. But that road is a county road and is used for recreation and public access to a large degree," pointed out Walker. "What we are asking for is some financial help in doing this project because of that."
Helping with a road project for industry would not be a new concept in Carbon County. In the past, various loans and grants went through the county for roads to mines in the area.
Ridge Road was constructed with special funds to keep heavy truck traffic out of the downtown Price area and provide a more direct route for shipping coal to power plants as well.
Horizon currently employs around 50 miners and truck drivers. While the number may not expand significantly, the coal production operation is an important part of the Carbon County economy.
As the special service district board discussed the situation, the members learned from Walker as well as Spendor general manager Daryl Curtis and engineer Kit Pappas that the company would proceed with the project regardless of the county's decision regarding the financial assistance request
"We need to get going on this project right away," stated Curtis. "That's because they are taking the rotomill up right now and we need to take it as soon as Nielson (Construction) pulls it off the highway. We already have 2,500 to 3,000 tons of it stored away. I feel we need to get this done in the next 30 days."
County Commissioner Bill Krompel, who is on the special service district board and heads up the road department for the county, had some questions about maintenance of such a road.
"First what is it costing you to maintain the gravel road now and who would maintain the road after it is done?" he asked.
Walker told the board that it was costing an average of $18,000 per month to maintain the road for the mines loadout now and that the company would be responsible for maintenance after the rotomill work was completed.
But while the county has supported other coal related roads, this request was quite a bit different than what has been done in the past. Board member Sam Quigley had some questions about the situation.
"You know we have never paid or reimbursed coal companies directly for roads," he commented. "Most, like Westridge, have been done by getting grants and low interest loans. Ridge Road has been paid for by tolls and bonds. On top of that, the loans have been guaranteed by the companies involved."
However Pappas said there was a difference with those roads as compared with consumers.
"Those roads that were built are dead end roads," he said. "They were put there for the purpose of hauling coal. This road is existing and goes through to Clear Creek. It is a class B county road and is used extensively for recreation."
Quigley pointed out that he wasn't saying it couldn't be done, but that the county had just never done it in this way before.
"I know that road in it's present form keeps falling apart and the county and your company keep throwing money at it," he explained. "But there are many others that have benefited from those other roads that private industry has paid for as well. Airport Road is a good example. Talon Resources paid to build it but the gas industry has benefited greatly by it being there as a public road."
The idea of coming up with a grant or loan on the road also emerged along with the discusssion about past similar projects. However, because of the fact that rotomill will be used instead of regular oil pavement, the cost is a great deal lower than roads built for these purposes in the past.
"A study we had done said that the whole nine miles of road that needs to be done up there would cost $4.5 million if it were paved," stated Curtis. "Doing it this way makes it only a $200,000 project."
The board's discussion still concentrated on finding a way to help the company without having to directly expend special service district money to do it. The board asked to see if there were some assurances the mining company could pay back a loan for such a project.
"I worry about this," said Krompel. "What if the mine goes under in 60 or 90 days? What did we require as guarantees with past projects?"
Nick Sampinos, council for the district explained that the guarantees came from both the local and the organizations parent companies.
"I'm not sure what I can give you as an assurance," stated Walker. "I can tell you that we have taken more coal out of that mine since last August when we took it over than has been probably taken out of it in it's whole life. We intend to operate and grow that mine. I can't give you a guarantee we will be there for 10 to 15 years, but that is our plan, because we have a lot invested."
But the idea of using a grant or loan was pretty much abandoned when as members of the board discussed the situation the realized the relatively small amount of money involved and the fact the company was going ahead with the project with or without the help of the county. The board then considered their options and decided to work directly through the county on the project to find a way to come up with the best way to handle it and any reimbursements on the work done.
The mine officials also pointed out that they may want to look at a chip and seal operation later if the road doesn't hold up as expected. That would be Phase II of the project if it were needed and they said they would work with the county on paying for that work.