Not enough being done in Portage

At a meeting in May, Portage Township supervisor Chairman Bill Cooper expressed the opinion that Amfire Mining Co. was “hem-hawing” in response to Shoemaker Circle residents’ concerns about coal dust, speeding coal trucks and road damage tied to the volume of truck traffic.

But at a meeting this month, residents were justified in pondering whether the supervisors also have been “hem-hawing” their concerns. One thing seems certain: The supervisors haven’t been as persistent and forceful as necessary regarding getting the situation resolved – in a way the company’s interests can be served as well as the residents’ and municipality’s.

The goal of residents and the supervisors is not that Amfire close its Portage operations. As was restated at this month’s meeting, the intent is merely to have the coal company become a better neighbor.

That’s not unreasonable. However, evidence remains lacking that the “better neighbor” scenario is evolving.

The latest meeting reinforced the notion that neither the supervisors nor Amfire has demonstrated enough determination to resolve the ongoing issues.

At that meeting, the supervisors said Amfire has hired a consulting firm to determine the cost of building an alternate route to divert traffic from Shoemaker Circle. That is laudable, but residents and township officials deserve to know the particulars about when the study is to be completed and whether the company truly is committed to following up on the consultant’s findings.

Part of company attempts to be a good neighbor should consist of company officials presenting data from the consultant at a public supervisors meeting.

Supervisor Richard Olshavsky said at the latest meeting that the company still hadn’t committed to the proposed alternate-route project. Meanwhile, Cooper said it could be a year or two until a new road is completed.

A new road won’t magically appear, but residents would be encouraged if steady progress on that project were visible.

By itself, hiring of a consultant doesn’t guarantee that the consultant’s work will begin or be completed anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the supervisors haven’t protected township taxpayers’ financial best interests by failing to adopt measures that would dump the costs of repairing “coal roads” on the company.

That obligation currently belongs to the taxpayers.

The Mirror stated in an editorial on March 14 that, although Amfire is an asset through the jobs it provides and other jobs whose existence the coal operation supports, the economic benefits must not be at the expense of people who have put much of their resources and hard work into having and maintaining a home and property.

It can be argued that not enough effort has been put forth by the company and supervisors on the residents’ behalf – that there’s been too much “hem-hawing.”

That needs to change.