A cement company in Fate is taking fire from multiple sides after posting a notice announcing that it had on Aug. 20 acquired a permit to operate a concrete factory across the street from Royse City Middle School.
Royse City officials have already put the company, JCK Concrete, under some red tape. Carl Alsabrook, city manager, denied having knowledge of the construction of the concrete batch plant before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted a permit on Aug. 20.
According to the city’s notice of the violation issued Aug. 31, the company did not seek approval of its construction plans with the city.
Alsabrook told the Herald-Banner on Friday that the city is considering legal options to fight the construction of the factory.
“Corrective relief for the community is being explored and further comment will be available as the situation is being prepared for litigation,” Alsabrook said.
Kevin Worthy, superintendent of the Royse City Independent School District, said he and other administrators were caught off-guard when they heard last week that a concrete plant would be going up near the middle school.
He said district officials have also asked its legal team to look into the situation.
“We will fight for and advocate for our students and staff members,” Worthy wrote in an email.
Worthy said district officials had heard from parents and residents who expressed their worries about concrete factory, and said he shared their concerns and opposition.
“We have spoken and we are unified in our opposition. This is another example of how our great relationship with the city will benefit students. Hopefully -together, we can influence this situation,” he said.
The Royse City Middle School and the proposed concrete plant are located in the small area of the city that is encompassed by Collin County, between Rockwall and Hunt Counties.
County officials have also been notified of residents’ pushback against the cement factory.
Briana Aguirre, whose ranch is located in an adjacent property of the proposed concrete batch plant, has been busy dialing city and county officials to find a way to stifle the construction of the factory.
“I found out about it while I was riding my horse, and I saw this little sign that said that (JCK Concrete) would be building a batch plant,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre also started a Facebook group called “No Concrete Plant Near RCMS” last week. As of Tuesday, the group had almost 2,300 members.
Over the weekend, the group organized its first in-person meeting in front of the middle school, where residents had a chance to ask questions and find out what they could do to fight the construction of the cement factory.
The harmful effects of silica dust, in addition to concerns about traffic and road concerns, were raised as issues for fighting against the cement batch plant permit.
According to the American Lung Association, silica dust can cause a condition called “silicosis.” Though the condition is most often found in construction workers, long-term exposure to the material can cause scarring in the lungs that hurts a person’s ability to breathe.
Aguirre, who works as a nurse, told residents at the meeting that she is looking for help to fight the project.
“Hopefully I can enlist a couple of you, other people, there are so many people that couldn’t make it because of the holiday weekend. I need help researching this,” Aguirre said.
At the end of the meeting, Aguirre encouraged members of the Facebook group to sign a Change.org petition, and to write letters to the TCEQ protesting the permit. The online petition has garnered a total of 1,849 signatures, with a goal of 2,500.
The organization will be having a meeting later today at 7 p.m. in front of the middle school campus.
Rhonda Bitner, a Royse City resident who attended the meeting, said the city needs business leaders who care about the wellbeing of the community.
“We need business leaders who are ethical and who will do what’s best for all parties concerned, the community and the environment - not just their company’s own self interests. In this situation, they should be putting our children’s health and safety over their own bottom line,” Bitner wrote in a statement.
According to the state environmental commission, the concrete plant applied for the permit in April earlier this year.
Andrew Keese, a spokesman for the environmental commission, said companies are allowed to publish a “consolidated public notice.”
“JCK Concrete was only required to publish one notice, and they met all of the public notice requirements,” Keese said.
The company, on June 13, published one public notice in the Royse City Herald Banner. The same public notice was published in the Rockwall County Herald-Banner on June 15.
Keese also said locations that companies that have acquired permits for are sufficiently surveyed to make sure that the surrounding community is not harmed.
“Concrete production facilities under standard permits have been determined by the TCEQ not to make a significant contribution of air contaminants to the atmosphere. Emissions from these facilities have already undergone a comprehensive TCEQ internal modeling of impacts and a health effects review. No adverse effects are expected to occur from facilities that meet all requirements of the standard permit for concrete batch plant,” Keese wrote.
Royse City Middle School, which is located near Davis Elementary School and Ruth Cherry Intermediate School, is about 400 yards from the proposed concrete plant.
Though the commission allows for a contested case hearing for residents within 440 yards of a concrete plant, Keese said the deadline to request a hearing ended on July 13.
He said residents can request a judicial review of the executive director’s action, and said a petition to do so would have to be filed 30 days after the date that the permit was issued, which was Aug. 20.
He told the Herald-Banner that any letters contesting the permit would not have any effect on the commission’s decision.
“Letters received concerning the location of the plant in regards to the school would not affect the issuance of the permit. The application submitted by JCK Concrete met all state requirements, including the distance limitations set forth in statute and the standard permit,” he said.