Owner says his company works hard to be positive community asset

Published 4:17 pm Monday, June 12, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Kenneth Smith thinks his gravel and sand mining company has gotten a bad rap.
Smith said his company has followed all governmental rules for obtaining permits and operating the business and has worked hard to be a good neighbor to those around it.
He said some newspaper stories have been one-sided and paint a different, inaccurate picture.
Kenneth Smith, president of the mining business's parent company Kenneth Smith Inc., said his organization works hard to be a positive part of Niles.
The company is at the center of a legal battle between the owner of a Howard Township business and the municipality over the granting of a permit to Moose Lake Aggregate, which Smith's company owns.
Smith said his companies are in the process of constructing two lakes near the site of the sand and gravel mining business. Once completed, the bodies of water will serve as the centerpieces for a new residential community on Barron Lake Road.
Smith said a completion date could not be estimated, but added he hopes to have both lakes finished and work on getting the community started within 10 years. Progress depends on the pace of the construction business and the amount of business Moose Lake Aggregate receives. The more materials supplied by Moose Lake, the quicker the lake project can move forward, Smith said. He also added the business “is already going at a pretty good pace now.”
Kenneth Smith Inc. was founded in 1967 by Smith's grandfather, also named Kenneth. The company bought Moose Lake Aggregate in 2001 and has since increased the size of the property in Howard Township from 60 to 170 acres.
Moose Lake obtained its conditional use permit necessary to mine sand and gravel on the piece of property zoned agricultural/residential from Howard Township in July 2002. The township's board of trustees and zoning board held four public meetings before issuing the permit.
An appeal from neighboring Eckler's Produce and Greenhouse of the township's decision to issue the conditional permit was recently denied in Cass County Circuit Court by Judge Michael E. Dodge. The owners of the greenhouse, Larry and Lucyle Eckler, have voiced concerns over the mining business that operates across the street.
Larry Eckler has complained about the amount of sand and dust Moose Lake creates as well as the noise caused by the large trucks pulling in and out of the mining location.
Smith said his mining business has taken many steps to limit the amount of dust and noise coming from Moose Lake. Aside from dust suppression systems, Smith said all trucks leaving Moose Lake pass through a wheel washing system and then exit the property on a 1,500 foot paved driveway.
And, Smith said his company invested a large amount of time and hours into the process of obtaining the necessary permits to mine gravel and sand on the property zoned agricultural/residential.
Moose Lake products are being used in multiple projects across southwest Michigan, Smith said. The company's gravel is being used in the construction of the U.S. 31 bypass extension north of Berrien Springs.
Kenneth Smith Inc. is also supplying limestone for the new Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, as well as concrete for the Interstate 94 project near Paw Paw, Smith said.
Smith said the total number of employees between Kenneth Smith Inc. and Moose Lake Aggregates is now near 85.
As for the new project on Barron Lake Road, Smith said work on both lakes is well under way. Next to a six-acre lake will rest another measuring 58 acres with a depth of 42 feet. Smith added the larger of the two has already been stocked with bass, walleye and perch. Smith said the Moose Lake Aggregate business will be removed once the lakes are finished and construction on the subdivision is ready to begin.