Valley Asphalt wants to annex 174 acres here to enable it to expand its operations into a full-fledged concrete and asphalt batch plant, which could lead to an economic boom for this town just off I-15 in south Utah County.

But as the time nears for a public hearing Tuesday, residents are gearing up to fight the asphalt and concrete company and the city, which seems to be leaning toward letting the company come in. Some residents fear their quality of life will be compromised.Valley Asphalt is now located in Leland, just south of Spanish Fork.

The company owns a gravel pit just east of Santaquin that has been in operation since the 1930s, said Richard Bradford, executive director of Utah Valley Economic Development Association and a consultant working for the city.

Bradford said most city officials are leaning toward approving the batch plant if adequate safeguards are built into the ordinances.

Mayor Keith Broadhead refused to discuss the issue with the Deseret News. He also declined to discuss the low bid that was recently given Valley Asphalt to repave some 30 blocks of Santaquin. Valley Asphalt's bid was some $40,000 below the next closest bid.

Broadhead said questioning the bid "was the most stupidest question I've ever heard."

One other councilman, Kirk Greenhalgh, declined to comment.

Councilman Frank Staheli said Valley Asphalt needed to annex into Santaquin to build the batch plant and expand the gravel pit operation. The county "critical environment" zone the pit is in doesn't allow much expansion.

"We are writing an industrial zone that should accommodate that if we brought them in," Staheli said. The city doesn't have the necessary zone now, he added. Staheli called the new zone generic but said Valley Asphalt precipitated it.

Councilman Lynn Adams said city zoning and planning officials were also working on a mining ordinance, which the city now lacks but would need to control the gravel pit operation. If the annexation were approved, the city would benefit from better control over Valley Asphalt, an expanded tax base and increased sales of water and natural gas, he said.

The council has also discussed receiving a royalty per ton from the gravel pit, he said.

Other members of the council could not be reached. A phone call to Valley Asphalt was not returned.

Meanwhile, residents who oppose the annexation are gearing up to keep Valley Asphalt out. Colleen Wilson and her husband are self-described leaders of the opposition and are circulating petitions against the proposal. She said while circulating the petitions she found that many residents were unaware that Valley Asphalt wanted to expand its operations into Santaquin.

She cited concerns with increased truck traffic both through Santaquin and between Santaquin, Spring Lake and Payson. Residents are also concerned about decreased property values and increased air pollution. "The air is clean here now," she said.

Unless annexation is approved, the company will be restricted from expanding its gravel operation beyond its current 36 acre boundary and would not be able to build concrete or asphalt batch plants, said Jeff Mendenhall of the county planning department. He said any change in the county zoning to allow expansion was unlikely.