Residents turn out to oppose expansion

By Tony E. Windsor

Seaford residents living in the Bradford and Harrington Street area were out in force during the Tuesday, Oct. 10, meeting of Seaford Mayor and Council. Word apparently spread that Venture Milling Company, a grain milling operation, is hoping to build a new storage warehouse and residents fear it will increase truck traffic and the odor that they say is permeating their neighborhood. According to Charles Anderson, Seaford Building Official, Venture Milling, located at Bradford and Harrington streets along the Conrail railroad tracks, has said it hopes to get the city's blessing on a project that will also include a new feed conveyor system and a 70-foot truck scale. Anderson said the warehouse being planned is a 5,000-square-foot wood-frame building that will hold 450 tons of meat and bone meal. The meal is used as ingredients in feed products. Anderson said concerns expressed to Venture Milling by the city regarding the proposed construction have been addressed. These included concerns that some of the construction would place Venture Milling operations too close to the residential area. The firm agreed to move the actual construction closer to the railroad tracks. Venture Milling has also agreed to do some road improvements in the area around its operation. Councilman Ed Butler expressed his concerns that the additional storage of meal and the expanded operation will cause the odor to be worse in that area of the city. "Odor is already a problem in this area," he said. "How can you put what you are putting in this storage and not create more odor?" George Benton, a representative of Venture Milling, was in attendance at the meeting and told Butler that the new construction will not increase the odor. He also said there would not be a decrease in odor either. He said the operation will be handling the same amount of tonnage, but the enhancements will make the operation more efficient. "We anticipate this will get the trucks that are down there to be unloaded in and out quicker," he said. "This will also be done in an enclosed building, so it will cut down on the amount of dust that gets into the outside air." Benton said it is the combination of humidity and temperature that creates the odor around the mill site. By having the trucks dump their loads inside it will cut down on the amount of dust that gets into the air. "We believe there will be no less or no more odor. There will be no more than there is right now," he said. Benton said a deficient storm water drain that lies near the railroad tracks at Harrington and Porter streets also causes some of the odor. "I cannot deny that at certain times our operation creates odor, but the poor drainage problem down there causes more," he said.

Charles Lankford, a Porter Street resident, said he has lived in the neighborhood since 1987, and has seen no efforts by Venture Milling to make conditions any better on residents. "There has been no change since I've been there," he said. "The truck traffic, the odor, the debris that is in the road all the time, it has gotten no better. Now it sounds like to me that you will be increasing the truck traffic. The storm drain down there has collapsed and you have made no efforts to fix it. I can't even get to my vehicle when it rains. We can't wash our cars or our windows in the house because of the mill dust and cornhusks that blow through the air. When I bought my home this operation was not here. Because of these problems my property value is going down." Jerry Marvel, who resides on Pennsylvania Avenue, said he "can't believe" what Benton said about no increase in odor due to the enhanced mill operation. "You are storing 450 tons of product and say there will be no increase in odor. I just can't believe what this gentleman is saying. The odor is already terribly offensive. I hate to have anyone come to my house because of it. I believe there will be more odors and more truck traffic. Something needs to be done about this. I can't sell my property for its value because of the problems that we are dealing with right now." Marvel said he was also concerned that none of the residents living in the area of Venture Milling were made aware by the city that the mill was planning this construction project. "I just happened to hear about it," he said.

Arthur Stackhouse, who lives on Harrington Street, said he also agrees that the odor and truck traffic is a serious problem in his area. He said the truck drivers do not give any consideration to the residents who live in the area. "We can't get in our parking spots outside of our house because there are trucks everywhere. They block the streets on both sides and in the middle. It's pitiful. School buses can't even get through because of these trucks. This area can't handle the traffic down there now. I think the city better think about this before doing something else." Carol Whitt, who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, said she is concerned that industrial operations by Venture Milling are located so close to the Nanticoke River. "It distresses me when I see the Nanticoke River, our most wonderful natural resource, being home to this type of operation. We should be capitalizing on this river and its beauty for people to come here and visit. I think we should stop and look at this situation. I hate to see us using all this riverfront for things that would be better located in an industrial area."

Benton said Venture Milling is proposing the enhancements at its Seaford plant as an effort to help improve the truck traffic situation in that area of the city. He said currently, trucks arrive at the mill and often wait from 45 minutes to an hour to unload. This creates backlogs of trucks that just sit along Harrington and Bradford streets. With the new construction, Benton said it would enable the trucks to be unloaded within 10 to 15 minutes. "We believe there will be fewer trucks, not more trucks," he said. "We are not anticipating an increase in truck traffic. If trucks have to wait 4 to 6 hours to unload, it costs us money and it is harder to find truck drivers willing to come here. With our current system we can only run 24 trucks a day with 15 trucks sitting and waiting. With the added storage and load out capabilities we can run the same number of trucks within 8 to 10 hours. I can't promise, but it is our intention to decrease night runs. That's not a guarantee." Benton said the new operation would also help the business to control costs.

Doug Butler, a Seaford Volunteer Fireman, resides on Porter Street near Venture Milling. He said that he is very upset about the lack of respect that the truck drivers who deliver to Venture Milling show the local residents. "These truck drivers are not courteous at all," he said. "They will park in the middle of the road and when you ask them to move they will say ‘what the hell do you want me to do?' "Your costs are not my problem. My kids playing in that area and me having to respond to a fire alarm, that's my problem." Linda Usilton, who lives on Harrington Street, called the situation endured by residents in the area of Venture Milling "absolutely ridiculous." She said between discourteous truck drivers who "slam on their brakes in front of my house to level their loads," and the odor, "I see no glimmer of hope for us." Usilton said she was misinformed about the truck schedule at Venture Milling because she was not aware that there would be trucks running "all night long." "When do we get a break," she asked? "Will you stop running trucks all night?" Benton said he could not tell her that trucks would not be running at night. He said that there would not be any increase in the number of trucks. He also said having the increased efficiency at the mill in terms of unloading trucks, should make a big difference in the amount of truck congestion in that area of the city. Seaford Mayor Daniel Short said it was obvious that given the concerns of the residents and his own questions about the mill project, no decision could be made at the council meeting. He suggested that a committee be formed made up of Venture Milling representatives, city officials and citizens. The group will meet and discuss the concerns and bring information back to council to be used in making a final decision. Councilman Ron MacArthur was picked by Short to chair the committee and Butler will also serve on behalf of the city. Pending a report from the committee, the council tabled the Venture Milling issue.

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