Politics & Government

Grand jury faults supervisors

MADERA -- A Madera County Grand Jury report this week accused the county's Board of Supervisors of approving a controversial rock quarry for a nonexistent corporation, but county officials said it won't delay the project.

The grand jury challenged the Sept. 11, 2006, approval of a Madera Ranch Inc. plan for a rock-and-asphalt quarry off Road 406, not far from Highway 41. The grand jury noted that in March 2006, California Secretary of State records show, the corporate name was changed to Madera Quarry Inc.

"With misinformation, the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with the owners of Madera Ranch Inc., allowing it to commence operation of a rock quarry," the grand jury reported.

County Counsel David Prentice said Tuesday that the grand jury report won't change anything. Corporations change names all the time, he said.

"It's of no concern to me or my office," Prentice said.

In Redding, quarry-site owner Jack Baker said the name was changed to avoid confusion with the Madera Ranch water-bank project. Baker said he is waiting for clearance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Game to proceed with plans for the quarry.

Board Chairman Vern Moss presided over the 2006 meeting when a standing-room-only crowd of about 100 opponents failed to stop a 4-0 approval of the quarry project. The opponents expressed concerns that the project might cause their wells to run dry and would bring unwanted truck traffic.

Supervisor Frank Bigelow, who represents the foothills district that includes the 125-acre quarry site, was absent from the deliberations.

The grand jury report doesn't change the legal structure of last year's approval, Moss said Tuesday.

The grand jury also found that supervisors did not adequately deal with the project's potential effects on water levels and water quality.

Oakhurst lawyer Martin D. Koczanowicz, who represents the opponents, said a lawsuit filed by the residents against the project in Madera County Superior Court was decided this June in favor of the quarry. That decision is being appealed, he said.