Concrete plant faces rock-hard opposition in West Allis

Colder's adds its concerns to those of neighbors at public hearing

Tom Balistreri, vice president of merchandising for Colder’s Furniture, speaks against allowing a concrete plant near the furniture store. Seated behind him (from left) are Michels representatives Nicholas Hornyak, Tim Frerichs, Michael Debelak and Ryan Murphy.

Tom Balistreri, vice president of merchandising for Colder’s Furniture, speaks against allowing a concrete plant near the furniture store. Seated behind him (from left) are Michels representatives Nicholas Hornyak, Tim Frerichs, Michael Debelak and Ryan Murphy.

Nov. 12, 2013

West Allis — Representatives of Colder's added their voices to those of neighbors who are against letting a temporary concrete plant operate on the edge of a West Allis industrial area.

The West Allis Common Council held a public hearing on the proposal last week, though without taking action. Its Safety and Development Committee will take the matter up Dec. 11. The earliest council vote would be Dec. 17.

Michels Corp. of Brownsville has asked for approval of a batch plant where concrete would be mixed and then poured into dump trucks bound for the Zoo Interchange road project. Michels would lease property in the rear of Quad/Graphics, 555 S. 108th St.

The proposed batch plant would operate a maximum of three years, which is shorter than the original five that Michels officials anticipated. But once the city allows a plant there, another plant could move in after Michels leaves, said John Stibal, development director.

As many as 30 trucks an hour would use a temporarily closed portion of the Hank Aaron State Trail and the road that serves Colder's to access Highway 100. The intersection has no traffic light.

Hazardous access?

That worried Tom Balistreri, vice president of merchandising for appliance and furniture retailer Colder's, who said a significant number of accidents happen there already. Speaking at council's Nov. 5 hearing, Balistreri said he doesn't want additional truck traffic to make safety worse for customers and employees who use the road as the only way in and out.

"We cannot stand to have that access affected," Balistreri said.

Fellow Highway 100 business owner Helene Felker said she knows that corner is hazardous because her mother was involved in an accident there. If the collision had involved a loaded dump truck, she would probably be dead, Felker said.

Ryan Murphy, Michels senior manager, pointed out that truck traffic would be sporadic, not consistently heavy. While 30 trucks an hour would access the highway for two or three days, there would be no truck traffic for a week or two, he said.

Bad business conditions

In addition to safety concerns, Colder's representatives expressed worry about the impact on its business.

Backups on the access road, dust from the concrete plant (which could clog the company's ventilation system) and the noise from dump trucks rumbling by on the Hank Aaron Trail (which is 54 feet from the retailer's building) would be disruptive.

As a business owner, Felker agreed that subjecting a business to years of disruption from traffic or construction is unimaginable, Felker said.

"Colder's is a significant presence," Felker said, and its needs should not be ignored.

Neighbors of the site raised similar complaints about potential dust and noise and were annoyed that the city would realize no additional taxes from the proposed plant.

Maintaining control

Michels officials are adamant that they can control dust and noise. The control measures the company is willing to take at the Quad site make approval of that site a wise move, said Michael Debelak, Michels vice president.

If the Quad site isn't available, Michels or some other concrete company with an interchange contract could set up operations on a freeway ramp or right of way where dust and noise dampening measures could not be employed to the same extent, he said.

"It would be pushing the problem closer to possible residences or businesses," Debelak said, adding that the company found that the Quad site has the least impact on homes than any other that considered in 11/2-year search, he said.

He also noted that if trucks have to drive farther to Zoo Interchange work sites, traffic would be affected more than if the Quad site is used.

While Michels is accustomed to initial resistance, attitudes change once people see how the company operates, said Tim Frerichs, construction manager for the paving division.

For example, one freeway project involved Michels running trucks through the night near the hotel-studded Mitchell Airport spur.

"Probably 5,000 people were sleeping in those hotels and in two years we never got one complaint about noise or dust in that area," Frerichs said.

At a work site in Kenosha, the Michels plant operated 50 feet behind a truck service center and made so little dust and noise that the center operated with all four garage doors open with no problem, Frerichs said.


WHAT: Safety and Development Committee consideration of a request to establish a temporary concrete batch plant on a portion of the Quad/Graphics property, 555 S. 108th St.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Dec. 11

WHERE: West Allis City Hall, 7525 W. Greenfield Ave.

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