Ensnared in Lynch probe, firms gone from sand mining to sandlot

Ensnared in Lynch probe, firms gone from sand mining to sandlot

Once a growing, politically connected company with plans to create a 400-acre water park on state land, Dallenbach Sand Mining Co. Inc. in South Brunswick now consists of a sandlot, two wood shacks and rusted machinery.

Dallenbach, owned by the Herbert family and run by Jack Whitman, dredged sand and gravel from the site for more than 60 years, supplying the basic ingredients for cement.

The sand mining company was at the center of a federal corruption probe targeting former state Sen. John Lynch, who pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting more than $25,000 in exchange for trying to help the company get approvals for the proposed water park on state preserved parkland.

Those connected with Dallenbach had strong ties to the Middlesex County Democratic organization. Whitman, a former Milltown mayor, is also president of Edgeboro Disposal Inc., an East Brunswick company that awarded multimillion-dollar, no-bid contracts to its affiliates for the cleanup of landfill sites.

The Herbert family had owned Edgeboro until selling it to the Middlesex County board of freeholders in the early 1990s. Harold L. Herbert, the company’s late owner and former Milltown Democratic municipal chairman, helped elect dozens of Democratic candidates he supported before retiring as chairman in 1988. He died in April at the age of 86.

Whitman’s “conceptual proposal,” as he described it in 1998, called for the company to mine 12 million cubic yards of sand from a section of Pigeon Swamp State Park in South Brunswick over 20 years.

The company would then turn over the land — and an additional 275 acres of company property — back to the state.

Despite Lynch’s intervention, the plan was rejected by the township in 1999 in the face of heavy opposition from residents, officials and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

A year later, the company proposed expanding onto the adjacent property, where the Operating Engineers Local 825 runs its training center.

At the time, the township refused to renew the company’s operating permit because it believed the expansion went against zoning regulations. The township also demanded more information about the materials Dallenbach brought in to mix with its sand.

A few months later, a Superior Court judge overturned the resolution, allowing the company to submit a zoning application. But the expansion never took place.

Whitman has not worked there in at least two years, according to an employee on the site who refused to give her name. The employee said the company stopped operating at that location several years ago, and now serves as office space for other businesses.

Calls yesterday to Whitman’s home and office were not answered.

Dallenbach last applied for a yearly license in March 2005, said a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, the agency in charge of mining permits. The spokesman could not say whether the license had been granted.

While the company no longer mines sand from the South Brunswick site, two men found another use for the tract.

On Thursday, South Brunswick police arrested two men on the company’s property after they dropped a six-foot marijuana plant “that had just been harvested,” authorities said in a statement.

The officers searched the property and found several spots where it seemed other marijuana plants had recently been removed, the statement said.

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