The owners of Howell Sand Company are speaking out about the recent closure of the business by the City of Amarillo due to the possible spread of COVID-19 into the community.
“The only notice received by Howell Sand and Gravel Company was delivered at the time of closure by the City of Amarillo Health Department on Friday April 3, 2020. Prior to this, Howell Sand and Gravel Company was in receipt of no request to cease operations.
"The Company had taken every recommended action received from city health authorities, including quarantine of specific individuals as determined by the Health Department and closing of the office building and shop, while maintaining yard operations in accordance with, and under the counsel of, the health department.
"Social distancing and protective practices have been in place and will remain in place.
"The office building underwent commercial deep cleaning and disinfection in lieu of manual self-clean as recommended by the Public Health Department. The owners felt they should react aggressively in maintaining a safe environment and do everything possible to insure the health of their employees and customers. This was done Monday, March 30th, five days prior to closing of the Business.
"It is unfortunate that Howell Sand and Gravel Company was misrepresented during a worldwide pandemic when we all should be working together as one. Our regard for our employees and community has always been of utmost concern," the company said in a statement.
Amarillo city manager Jared Miller said the city will change how it handles similar situations in the future.
“I think we had a lot of things we had to address there. If we learned anything, it’s to document in writing everything we do, and we are going to continue to do that. I think that is something every business that we work with in the future is going to benefit from," Miller said.
Area law enforcement agencies shut down Howell Sand Company this past Friday afternoon. City officials said the business is connected to some COVID-19 cases in the area.
“There are confirmed cases of coronavirus that have originated from that business and now, there is confirmed, significant community spread that has resulted based on their refusal to comply with the orders to quarantine,” In order to slow the continued spread that resulted and originated at that business, we are shutting the business down temporarily.
“They were, on two different occasions, ordered to quarantine staff, and they chose not to. The result was the spread of coronavirus throughout our community based on cases that were there that should not have happened, had they followed the quarantine order," Jordan Schupbach, the director of communications for the city of Amarillo, said.
The City of Amarillo rescinded the Communicable Disease Control Order executed April 3 at the company's headquarters located at 2300 E. Hastings Ave.
“We were able to work with the owners of Howell Sand this weekend to resolve the outstanding issues,” said City of Amarillo Assistant City Manager Kevin Starbuck. “It became evident very quickly that Howell Sand is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety of their employees and the entire community.”
“There were also some breakdowns in communication that resulted in confusion about expectations. We’ve addressed those issues and want to thank Howell Sand for working with us to get things back up and running quickly.”
Any employee who was issued a quarantine order will be contacted by the Health Department regarding their next steps.
Josh Howell, vice president of the company, said the city "could be a lot more apologetic" to his business.
"This has resulted in some customer relationships that have been broken and I think the city could do a better job in being a little more apologetic, actually coming out with the true story of how it was handled and how it was handled wrongly by the city.” Howell said.
Howell Sand Company is a family owned and operated business serving the Texas Panhandle and surrounding communities. The company provides aggregate materials such as sand, gravel, crushed stone, and caliche. It also offers a wide range of services including paving, excavation, demolition, equipment hauling, and project planning.