Santa Rosa suspends new BoDean asphalt contract to speed resolution of dispute
Santa Rosa is holding up a nearly $800,000 contract with a local asphalt plant until its owners comply with laws the city says it has violated going back a decade.
The City Council approved a new contract with BoDean Co. Tuesday but suspended its execution until the company resolves several outstanding building code and permit violations on its Maxwell Drive property.
The council took the unusual step even though city staff warned that it would prevent the city from utilizing the most convenient local source of asphalt during the height of the summer road construction season.
“I just want us to go into this with our eyes wide open that there will be an impact to this decision,” City Manager Sean McGlynn said.
The council approved a similar contract with BoDean’s competitor, Syar Industries, which has asphalt plants on Todd Road and in Healdsburg. But staff said purchasing asphalt from those plants involves longer travel times compared to BoDean, which is located near downtown, and risks relying on a single source for its asphalt supply.
While council members said they didn’t want to hold up important city road projects, they seemed more focused on using the BoDean contract as leverage to bring the company into compliance with city codes.
An administrative law judge recently agreed with the city that BoDean failed to obtain permits when it moved a structure called a baghouse more than a decade ago, as well as more recent work to upgrade and install new equipment meant to quiet the plant operations. The company had argued that it did not need permits.
Councilman Chris Rogers noted that language in the proposed contract called for BoDean to be in compliance with all federal, state and local rules and regulations, a threshold it is not meeting, according to the city.
“I would be extremely uncomfortable executing a contract with a business that the moment the ink dries they are already out of compliance with,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he viewed the contract as an “opportunity to grease the wheel” and bring the company into compliance.
How long that takes is anyone’s guess.
City Attorney Sue Gallagher said BoDean has recently filed building permit applications for the work in question. She said it’s not clear how long those applications, which include approval by the Design Review Board, will take to process.
She said the city and company continue to have a “dispute” over whether the company needs a conditional use permit for those changes. If required, that permit process could take six to nine months, she said.
Rogers said he hoped that process would once and for all resolve the question of whether the company has the right to operate any time of the day or night, something the company asserts but which neighbors say creates a major nuisance.
Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, urged the council to impose sound monitoring and restrict hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He said the plant had “thumbed their nose at this council and citizens of this city for a decade.”
But Gallagher said hours of operation would not be one of the subjects taken up during any conditional use permit proceeding.
Dean Soiland, co-owner of BoDean, said public criticism aired about the company during the dispute has been off-base and inaccurate. He previously said he looks forward to completing the noise-dampening work and to being a good neighbor.
“I think BoDean is being characterized as a dishonest actor and that’s not who we are,” he said.
The council agreed to allow McGlynn to lift the suspension of the contract once he determines the company complies with all city rules and regulations. He said the city had stopped purchasing asphalt from BoDean on May 10.
The public support of Buckhorn and other labor and environmental groups at the meeting - including the Accountable Development Coalition and the Sonoma County Conservation Action - is a new wrinkle in BoDean’s long tangle with the city.
BoDean does not employ a unionized workforce, while Syar Industries does.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.