Rep. Guillen meets with Alanna Heights residents

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In May, the Pleasanton Express first wrote about the residents of the Alanna Heights subdivision north of Poteet, and their battle with the Stillman frac sand mine behind them. In that story, the Larry Myers family, Lance Biddle family and Ynes Vasquez shared how negatively the mine has impacted their lives.

The residents in the subdivision face constant dust, noise and lights coming from the mine.

Those same residents joined others in their neighborhood for a homeowner’s meeting on Broken Star Trail on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Texas State Representative Ryan Guillen, Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley, Atascosa County Commissioner Mark Gillespie and Constable Rick Luna heard the concerns of approximately 20 residents.

One gentleman who works in oil and gas commented, “They are bringing sand in and processing sand here and then they are selling it.”

Vasquez said, “It’s coming out of the other Highway 16 mine, where the old golf course is at.”

A woman asked what they are permitted for.

Bob Hurley said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would have to tell them. He added what they are probably permitted for is to wash the sand, dry it and load it.

Stillman Enterprises is what they are operating under, but the property is owned by 16 Sands LLC.

Constable Luna has been stopping their trucks and DPS has also been out, slowing them down quite a bit, explained Hurley. He said they are working on a no-thru truck ordinance for the subdivision, as some trucks are missing the turn coming down and turning into the subdivision instead. Once they get the no-thru truck sign, they can give them tickets. Hurley added that at the county level, they are really limited on what they can do.

Some of the other questions asked by the residents included: how can they get the company to use the road that they built out there, is there a load limit on Schuettig Road and can they have their taxes and property values re-evaulated.

“The only way we can force them off this road, is if we had some authority to force them, but the state does not give the county the authority to control our own roads,” said Hurley. “If we were to load limit this road, I’ve got to take core samples, turn them over to a TXDOT engineer and they have got to come out here and determine that this road is not capable of carrying that load. And then we could load limit, and they tell me it is not likely that that would happen.”

Myers commented that it was not only the traffic, it was the nuisance and the dust that they are creating.

“There is the noise. They are disturbing the peace. We cannot sleep down here in the corner. Is that not enough to shut them down off that road? They  have access, they need to go ahead and repair it, enlarge it, whatever they have to do so they have it,” Myers said.

Regarding the noise, Hurley said they could try to file charges under a public nuisance. However, the county does not have the authority from the state to establish a noise ordinance.

Regarding the dust, that would be through TCEQ.

Myers added that the trucks sometimes stop and are staging on the road.

Mr. Biddle said they are just 140 feet from his bedroom window.

“They are knocking those hatches open and close, beating on them, hitting the brakes, back-up alarms coming and going. It’s not drive-by traffic. They are actually stopping and creating the noise,” said Myers.

Hurley reassured them that he and Commissioner Gillespie were on the residents’ side. He asked Rep. Guillen to come and meet with them, because he wanted him to see it firsthand and because Hurley and Gillespie were ham-strung by state regulations.

Rep. Guillen said the challenge is narrowing into what exactly the problems are and then narrowing down how to fix it, without changing the general gist of how things are in Texas.

“Of course, there are a lot of people that like their freedom in the country, outside the city limits. Limiting freedoms by giving government more authority over them, poses a challenge for me and anyone who is wanting to go in there and change regulations,” said Guillen.

It’s not impossible, but it will take carving out a method and strategy so that Guillen can take it to the Legislature and see if it can be passed. That is what they are trying to figure out.

Hurley said they need to talk about regulating these mining operations, as the industry has exploded so fast. They also discussed gathering photos and videos to make a presentation at Commissioner’s Court.

Hurley asked if the residents have sought legal counsel and residents have, without any luck.

Hurley said there is a  difference between the quality of sand from Stillman vs. that of Preferred Sands (a different sand mine located where Martin Marietta operates).

“Preferred Sands has kept their word on what they said they were going to do. They are a completely different level and different level quality of sand. They (Preferred Sands) sift their sands. They control the size of the granules,” said Hurley.

Gillespie said he has seen the paperwork with TXDOT and Preferred Sands is paying over a quarter of a million dollars out of their own pocket, to put in traffic control lights on Hwy. 16. They are moving their entrance over, putting in traffic lights, acceleration and deceleration lanes in both directions.

“This guy (Stillman) has the paperwork, but he chooses not to do it,” Gillespie said.

Guillen discussed calling TCEQ and possibly getting EPA involved, as well as looking at getting them to help pay for any damage done to roads. Guillen also said there had to be a solution to the company operating at all hours of the night.

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