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Oklahoma counties' plans for asphalt plant draw fire from contractors, legislators

BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: December 2, 2012
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A plan to construct a $2 million asphalt plant in Clinton may be stymied by Oklahoma legislators and general contractors who are concerned the owners are circumventing the free market.

Eleven counties in western Oklahoma have collaborated through their Circuit Engineering District to purchase land and award a construction bid for the project, but legislation may be proposed to stop it before it is built.

The issue was the topic of an interim study held Thursday before the state Senate subcommittee that oversees general government appropriations.

“It's not just the asphalt plant. We think the Circuit Engineering Districts have extended their reach,” said Bobby Stem, executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contactors.

The engineering district is one of eight that encompass all 77 counties in Oklahoma. The districts were created in 1998 to provide geographically adjacent counties collaboration options in designing, developing and maintaining county roads and highways.

The districts are funded primarily by the state Transportation Department, but also collect federal and county funds.

Stem said he will push for legislation that would limit the ability of these districts from developing means for services that already are available on the market.

He said the Clinton-based district should have requested a custom asphalt emulsion from one of three vendors that operate in the state.

Monte Goucher, the district's executive director, said the plant will save money and provide more lasting roads by developing an emulsion not available elsewhere.

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