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Despite Protests, Council OKs Cash for Concrete Plant to Move Near School

Half of the battle over moving a concrete plant out of the Trinity Groves restaurant theme park and farther into West Dallas was over in June, but we just didn't know it. In June, as Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and the rest of the city staff hurried the City Council to get as much done as possible before six council seats changed hands, the outgoing council approved the necessary zoning for the plant's new address, less than a mile from Dallas ISD's Thomas Edison Middle School.

Wednesday, the council approved spending $2.5 million to help Argos move its plant about 3 miles from its location near the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to its new digs at 2900 Commerce St. The total cost of the move is expected to be $13-17 million, according to information given to a council committee earlier this month.

The residents from around the plant's proposed new location showed up in droves to City Hall on Wednesday, almost universally expressing their distaste for the plant and the dust and emissions it would create. They recalled the General Portland Cement Plant that used to be in the area, the way its workers were constantly covered in dust and how, in the words of one speaker against the plant, it turned the entire area around it gray. The new plant will be cleaner, the residents have been told, but they don't believe it.

Moving the plant from its current location will allow for the completion of the West Dallas gateway, which includes the bridge and Trinity Groves, with a sleek, high-rise hotel. One of the developers set to benefit is Roger Staubach, the father of council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who removed herself from voting on the item. Eight of the remaining 14 votes, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and West Dallas council member Monica Alonzo, were for handing out the cash. Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Carolyn Arnold, Tiffinni Young, Mark Clayton and Philip Kingston voted not to give Argos the $2.5 million, which will be used to build a rail spur that will help facilitate the move.

Alonzo, who ostensibly represents the many speakers who came to oppose the plant, said in very brief remarks that she believed giving Argos the cash was best for her constituency and best for the city and its future.

"I know that there was a talk about where [the plant] is going to be. There is a, not an actual similar, but there is a batch plant there next to it right now. We have already voted on the zoning change, we have already voted for this location where this facility is going to go to. So, that was done beforehand and it was done unanimously and it was contacted with the people in the area," she said.

Young and Arnold weren't on the council when it voted to allow the plant's move in the first place, and they both chafed at being held to the votes of their predecessors, Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway. Arnold stressed that it was OK for the council to admit that it'd been wrong when it voted for the plant's zoning in June.

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Griggs read from a letter he'd received from Dallas ISD school board President Eric Cowan, who asked the council to delay the vote until after the district's November 3 bond election because the proposed bond package includes about $16 million for Edison. Kingston called the money a "seven-figure deal for eight-figure people" who should pay their own way. Clayton wanted the council to listen to those protesting the move.

"We need to always put people before business," he said.

Rawlings responded that people should always come first when the city does business.

"People first, business second. Now, the question is which people. That's where we get into an argument," he said with a laugh.

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