Photo by Austin Community College
Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Neighbors tell ACC board: No concrete plant here

Neighbors of Austin Community College’s Pinnacle campus in Oak Hill begged the ACC Board of Trustees to reverse its apparent decision to allow a Texas Department of Transportation contractor to operate a concrete batch plant on the campus.

About 20 neighbors told trustees at Monday’s meeting that the concrete plant, which is slated to begin operations this summer and continue for at least three years, would be detrimental to their health and safety and the enjoyment of their nearby homes if it is placed on the Pinnacle campus. The concrete plant would be operated by Colorado River Constructors, the TxDOT contractor that will be working to widen U.S. Highway 290 and State Highway 71 at Oak Hill. In addition to adding three main lanes in each direction, TxDOT plans to construct flyovers and frontage roads.

CRC spokesperson Laurie Simmons explained that the Pinnacle campus is the best site in the area for the concrete plant. The location, she said, would allow for safe and efficient access for trucks because of its signalized intersection. While she promised there would be limited noise and dust, she did say that the job would require 4 million cubic feet of concrete, but concluded, “CRC believes Pinnacle campus is the best location for a temporary work site.”

Cynthia Wilcox, president of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods, told trustees that they should reverse their decision allowing Chancellor Richard Rhodes to negotiate with CRC and “allow sufficient time for a robust public discussion prior to allowing the chancellor to sign” such an agreement. ACC will receive rent payments from the contractor, but the amount of the payment has not been revealed, or perhaps even determined.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, who represents the area, was involved in making sure CRC did not choose another tract, called the Wong tract, which was considered more environmentally sensitive. Now her constituents are asking for her help in redirecting the concrete plant away from their neighborhood. Goodwin notified Oak Hill residents this week that they would have an opportunity to meet with representatives of TxDOT and CRC on April 17 at the Pinnacle campus. Goodwin’s letter says, “Local public officials and some ACC representatives will be there to hear the information being shared and the questions being asked.”

That was not sufficient to satisfy Wilcox. “I think everyone communicated to the trustees the shock and disappointment that everything had been done behind closed doors … but a lot of the community feel like the trustees weren’t given complete information … the hope is that the trustees will rescind” their decision, she told the Austin Monitor on Wednesday.

Although City Council does not have a vote on placement of the concrete plant, it does have three items on today’s agenda related to construction of the highway. If approved, the items would instruct staff to move forward with eminent domain proceedings to allow Austin Water to move its infrastructure out of the way of the new construction. Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents the area, asked questions about the items at Tuesday’s work session, but indicated that she would vote for them.

Attorney Bobby Levinski, who represents the Save Our Springs Alliance and is also a member of the board of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods, has written a letter to Council asking them to vote against the three items “in solidarity with Oak Hill. The city should be actively fighting the expansion of this highway project, not paving the way for the project with eminent domain proceedings against Austin landowners,” he wrote.

At a minimum, he said Council should vote against any items related to the Oak Hill highway expansion until a suitable location is found for the concrete batch plant and “TxDOT addresses design configurations to limit the damage to Williamson Creek and the amount of excavation necessary along U.S. 290.”

Levinski and neighborhood leader Carol Cespedes have signed up to speak to Council about the eminent domain items at today’s meeting.

Oak Hill resident Chelsey Casey has started a petition to urge the board not to allow a concrete plant at the Pinnacle campus. On Monday, after collecting signatures for just two days, Casey said she had collected 283 signatures in opposition to the plant. Since then, the number has grown to 301.

Among other things, the petition states, “A concrete batch plant poses a huge risk to the health and wellbeing of the residents and the environmentally sensitive region our run-off recharges (Edwards Aquifer). Light and noise and smog pollution of trucks and equipment would be a nuisance, but concrete plants create hazardous byproducts that would enter our air and water, carried on the breeze right to our homes, by the rain to our aquifer.”

Clarification: In an email to the Austin Monitor a spokesperson from ACC stressed that they had yet to come to a decision on the plant, saying, “It is important to note no agreement has been reached at this time. The college continues to seek more information and stakeholder input. Any possible partnership or agreement will be made in the community’s best interest and if it is the safest option. ACC will be attending the upcoming information session to listen and learn more details.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin Community College: The city’s community college. ACC has campuses throughout the region.

Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods

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