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Fred Weber seeks data that led to citation


May 18, 2005 - Fred Weber Inc. has filed Sunshine Law requests to find out who responded and what was asked in a recent survey with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that led to an air quality violation.

The department sent a letter April 27 notifying Fred Weber Vice President of Operations Roger Gagliano of an odor problem resulting in a violation of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission Regulations.

Of 46 surveyed residents of the Cam-bridge Point Subdivision near Weber's asphalt plant on Baumgartner road, 80 percent noted a foul, objectionable odor. Only 30 percent is needed to merit a violation.

"We don't have access to the survey, who they surveyed and what they said," Husch & Eppenberger attorney Gary Feder told the Call. "This is a starting point for us to be able to start to respond to those claims (by the DNR). To the extent these discussions go on, we'd like to be more well informed."

Weber filed requests for information under the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law, with both the DNR and the county Department of Health, which wasn't active in the survey.

"We just asked for information regarding their methodology and what they asked. We feel that we're entitled to those surveys," Feder said. "We obviously understand there are people who live near the quarry and they don't like it, but as far as the state and the county, we don't know of any instances where inspectors have noticed odor problems."

Feder said Weber didn't request the names and addresses of people complaining to the county, though he knew names.

"It appeared in the county that you have the same six to eight people filing complaints," he said. "To me, to survey those people and ask about odor, it doesn't mean anything. Certainly, I don't think that should be the basis of a violation. Every time people are given an opportunity to take a shot at Weber, they've taken it.

"The company operates the asphalt plant in terms of minimizing to the fullest extent any odors from the operation," Feder added. "Certainly, there is nothing detrimental to anybody's health."

Meanwhile, residents are concerned with the requests, fearing the same fate as Oak-ville resident Tom Diehl, who was sued in February 2004 while actively and publicly opposing Weber's request for a trash-transfer station at the south quarry.

Weber sued Diehl for $5 million in punitive damages and at least $25,000 in actual damages for his association with fliers calling the company "trash terrorists." The Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals threw out the case, but Weber appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which hasn't decided whether to accept the case.

"It's quite intimidating," resident Joe Guel-bert said of Weber's Sunshine Law re-quests. "They've got my name. I've filed many complaints, and I feel it's my God-given right to do so. Does it mean that I'm going to be the next one sued? Sure I think about that. I'm sure there's quite a few people around the neighborhood who feel like they could be next ... What am I going to do? I can't run and bury my head under a rock."

Guelbert is a neighborhood trustee and says he's vocal on behalf of his neighbors who don't want to speak publicly. Other Cambridge Point residents declined to talk to the Call.

He acknowledges that he's made several complaints to the county and that only a handful of residents have complained.

"It's a handful of residents (complaining) because the others are afraid to call," Guel-bert said. "There's only a handful of people that aren't afraid to call."

"I've told people to only call if they smell something, not to call just for the sake of complaining," he added. "I want this to be solved properly."

Since receiving the violation notice from the DNR on April 27, Weber has submitted the required abatement plan, Feder said.

But Weber has submitted the same plan before, he added, so he's not sure why the company received the April 27 violation, even if the survey revealed complaints.

Weber did not seek names of those who've complained, Feder reiterated.

The Sunshine Law requests were made solely to understand the violation and the survey and respond to the DNR, the attorney said.

Mac Scott, spokesman for County Exec-utive Charlie Dooley, also told the Call that Weber did not ask for any names or addresses. He said Weber had "laundry list" of requests that he would provide the Call. The list was unavailable before press time.

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