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DEQ to decide on Payne site

by The Western News
| January 26, 2012 10:33 AM

Lincoln County Commissioners, during their meeting Wednesday in Eureka, unanimously voted to ask the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to render a decision on whether Robert Payne should be granted a vehicle-wrecking business on his property just outside Libby.

The decision comes one week after Payne, owner of Payne Logging Co. at 99 My Road, requested permission for the business on his 12.7-acre site adjacent to J. Neils Park.

During that meeting, commissioners heard from neighbors, who while praising Payne for being a good neighbor, cited concerns about noise, soil and water pollution from oils, fuel and acids from demolished vehicles.

Lincoln County Administrator Bill Bischoff on Thursday — the day after the vote — said Commissioners had three options. The first was to approve Payne’s request; the second was to decline the permit, and the final was to forward Payne’s request to the DEQ and ask that agency to issue a decision.

Had the board declined the permit, the request would have died. The final two options require evaluation from the Department of Environmental Quality.

On Thursday, messages left for DEQ’s Bruce W. Meyer, who oversees the Motor Vehicle Recycling and Disposal Program for comment about the evaluation process, were not returned.

Tony Berget, the Libby District Commissioner, on Thursday said Commissioners weighed the decision and voted for the third option to let the DEQ make the decision.

“It’s a tough decision,” Berget said. “We weighed both the pros and cons. We hear the residents’ concerns, but we also realize Mr. Payne has there a long time — before the neighbors, even before the park. We discussed it at some length,” Berget said.

According to Berget, Commissioners also considered the long-term effect of granting the project.

Asked to elaborate, Berget said once the project is granted, it remains a wrecking yard, which brought into question what happens after Robert Payne.

“Once we approve it, it stays a wrecking yard,” Berget said.

Payne’s son, Allan Payne, a Helena attorney, stated during the public hearing Jan. 11 that he does “not want to own a wrecking yard.”

The elder Payne admits to wanting the wrecking facility to continue the cleanup of his property, a fact of which his neighbors who voiced opposition to the permit, applauded him for those efforts.

Still, those neighbors fear an auto-wrecking yard will be a detriment to both the park and the values of their homes.

“We’re (Libby is) already a Superfund site,” said Patti Dalby, a Payne neighbor at 58 Edgewater Drive and who spoke in opposition to the site approval on Jan. 11. “I hope they do nothing to further jeopardize our health.”

Dalby, whose husband, Steve, is an attorney, said neighbors are beginning a letter-writing campaign to urge the DEQ not to approve the auto-wrecking permit.

“Our plan is to deluge the DEQ with letters,” Patti Dalby said.

In the event the permit is granted, Patti Dalby said her husband is researching an appeals process.

Bischoff, the County Administrator, said he expected a decision to be rendered within a couple of weeks.