Firm wants Goldfields training site moved
Western Aggregates wants Yuba County to consider moving the site for a proposed heavy-equipment training center in the Yuba Goldfields to property owned by the company.
Alan Strong, president of Western Aggregates, pitched the proposal Friday in a four-page letter to the county.
“Western believes, and has always believed, in a training center and the benefits to the county resulting from it, but does not want it to be located at the cost of its own property rights,” Strong wrote.
He said moving the school to the east on 160 acres belonging to Western would benefit everyone. The site has power, water, sewer, telephone and other existing infrastructure. The original site does not, he said.
The letter suggested the county lease the alternative Western Aggregates land and then sublease the property to the school, run by Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3.
“I can't under why Western Aggregates is offering land for the this training center when they opposed this center up until now,” said union official Dave Slack. “I'm not sure they have clear title to the land they are offering.”
In an October 2004 proposal to the Bureau of Land Management, the Operating Engineers No. 3 Apprenticeship Training Committee suggested the school be on about 60 acres on Hammonton Road along the Yuba River.
Committee representatives wanted a 40-year lease to establish the program. The BLM late last month agreed to a 20-year lease. The school will train about 200 students annually to use heavy equipment such as graders, bulldozers and cranes.
Although the BLM approved the committee's lease, Strong said a dispute over who has jurisdiction over the property - BLM or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - complicates making the school a reality. Strong also said the Western has mineral rights claims on the site.
“It may take years to sort out whether the BLM had proper authority to offer a lease that is under the jurisdiction of the corps, notwithstanding the attempt of the BLM to cure such weakness with a consent letter from the corps,” Strong wrote.
Western's letter received a cool response from Chuck Smith, chairman of the Yuba Goldfields Access Coalition, which supports the school.
“Western has never issued a public statement in support of a training center or any other use of public lands other than their use,” said Smith.
The courts have already ruled that Western doesn't own the land for the original site, he said.
“It's a phony issue. Western Aggregates makes false claims that they have property interest in (the original site),” Smith said. “What Western Aggregates is doing is attempting to keep a training a center from locating in the Goldfields because Western Aggregates wants the Goldfields to themselves.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.