Oswego lawmakers to review abandoned sand quarry project and taxpayer waste
Oswego County legislators are expected to conduct a review Tuesday afternoon of a failed sand quarry project that apparently wasted $43,000 worth of taxpayer money.
As CNY Central's Jim Kenyon reported exclusively two weeks ago, a group of residents in Hannibal convinced Oswego County Highway Superintendent Kurt Ospelt to abandon the project. Last year, Ospelt entered into a lease agreement to mine sand from a quarry owned by Jack Beckwith, a former Oswego County legislator.
Oswego County highway crews had just completed building a gravel road to the quarry, but when neighbors complained that they were not informed of the project, Ospelt decided to abandon the project and rip up the road. Ospelt says it cost $33,000 to build the road and another $10,000 to take it out.
Ospelt said, "I'm just looking for winter sand so people can drive safely." But he added, "There was a big uproar...things got out of hand so we said to heck with it."
Because the access road would have connected to Route 3, the State Transportation Department informed Hannibal legislator Terry Wilbur that the county would need a permit, which Ospelt had not applied for. The DOT expressed concerns about the safety of trucks entering Route 3 along a curve just outside the village of Hannibal.
A number of Oswego County legislators are calling for an investigation.
The sand quarry operation raises a number of questions. Some Hannibal residents became angry that they knew nothing about the project until after the road was built. Ospelt says he thought it was up to the Department of Environmental Conservation to notify neighbors since the DEC approved the mining permit.
Minority leader Michael Kunzweiler also questioned whether the lease agreement with a former county legislator amounted to a "sweetheart deal" between Ospelt and Beckwith.
Beckwith told CNY Central that he approached Ospelt because he knows the county needs sand for winter road maintenance and that he could provide the county with a supply of sand that would save taxpayers money. Beckwith says he would make up to $12,000 under the arrangement. Beckwith says he would never do anything dishonest or underhanded.
Some lawmakers also say that Ospelt entered into the lease without the necessary approval of the Oswego County Legislature.
Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner informed legislators that the Infrastructure, Facilities and Technology Committee will review the situation when it meets at 2:00 Tuesday afternoon.