Gravel not really free at Frank Brothers

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MILTON—So much for “free” sand and gravel.

Despite landowner Bill Watson's off-the-cuff plug in a Gazette editorial board meeting yesterday that Janesville-area sand and gravel company Frank Brothers is “giving away sand and gravel for free,” that's not really the case.     

Company manager Kyle Frank said Frank Brothers got a few phone calls Wednesday after Watson's claim, which Watson made Tuesday in the editorial board meeting, and which was filmed and posted on gazettextra.com, The Gazette's online news website.

“A few people called and said, “Hey, I want a load of that free gravel. I said, 'Free gravel? Where did you get that information?'”

Here's where: on Tuesday, Watson, who has no affiliation with Frank Brothers, said:

“You can get sand and gravel for free right now from Frank Brothers up in Milton. They're scalping material for rocks, and they end up with a lot of extra sand and they've just got that stuff all over their pit,” Watson claimed in the meeting. “If you'll come down here with a truck from Madison, they'll load it for free just to get it out of there.”

Watson was explaining to the editorial board that he doesn't see an immediate market in gravel mining on a 1,500-acre swath of land he seeks to develop west of Milton along County M and Interstate 90/39—and that he doesn't plan to sell gravel from the land to provide aggregate for the upcoming I-90/39 expansion in 2016.

Residents for weeks have wondered if Watson's quest to get a zoning designation and annexation of his land in the city of Milton as a means to open up gravel pits.  

Frank said he'd watched the video on The Gazette's website after phone calls from people seeking free gravel. He said he didn't believe Watson's comments were “egregious,” although they're inaccurate.

Frank said a few years ago, Frank Brothers had an amount of sand leftover as an asphalt production bi-product. The sand was too fine to meet state standards for aggregate in road projects. At that time, the company was selling that sand off at a reduced price—but it wasn't free.

He said maybe Watson was thinking about that time period.

“At the time were trying to pursue other markets for that sand. It was at a discount but we sure as hell weren't giving it away,” Frank said.

Frank said most people at his company were laughing off Watson's apparent misstatement, and Frank considered the misguided plug a “good advertisement.”

Still, Frank said he'd like to clear up facts.

“I'd like to clarify. No, we're not giving away gravel. I'd like to think I'm the low price leader on gravel, but, you know, I'd still like to get something for it,” he said.

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