Lehigh's Close Ties To Town Not Just History, Archivist Says

Lab Supervisor Keeps The Company Chronicles

October 20, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

Herb W. Weller keeps much of the history of the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in his head -- and in boxes of old pictures and papers.

He knows, for example, that the first barrel of cement produced at the Union Bridge plant was sold at auction in 1911 for $1,000 as a souvenir and that the company still has a sample of it in a glass bottle stowed in a safe.

He knows that Lehigh and Union Bridge are inseparable.

Weller,48, has lived "in the shadow of the plant" since he was 19.

He and his wife, Fran, who also grew up in the area, recently built a house outside Taneytown. It was hard to leave Union Bridge, he said.

The town was a good place to raise children, said Weller, who was involved in coaching girls and boys sports teams and is a regular at TownCouncil meetings.

Like other longtime employees, he takes criticism of the plant and the town to heart.

"I hate these distortions of life in Union Bridge," Weller said. "Life in Union Bridge is very good. We have progress and activity."

Newcomers have brought changeand vision to the community, which is necessary for progress, he said.

Weller was 21 when he went to work in the laboratory at Lehigh.He was interested in lab work and said he intended to spend his career with the company where his grandfather had worked.

He didn't goto college; Lehigh trained him on the job. In 1983, he was promoted to a management position in the lab.

He supervises eight employeeswho test the product from its inception as rock dug from the quarry to fine, ground cement ready to be shipped.

Plant Manager David H.Roush often asks Weller to take customers on tours of the plant. Weller said it's important for customers to know that Lehigh does everything it can to ensure the quality of its product.

Weller said he shares the concerns of area residents for the environment.

"We do enormous, immeasurable and incalculable work here to control the problems inherent in the manufacturing process," he said. "Everybody has natural concerns about the environment, whether they've lived here alltheir lives or are new to the community.

"I'm very proud I can bea part of a process that brings so much good to so many people in such a large region."

Lehigh needs to burn alternative fuels to savemoney, he said.

"Other companies are doing it. We've got to remain competitive.

"We will do everything we can possibly do to insurethe quality of the environment. We're all dedicated to that.

"We're not interested in damaging our employees, our environment or our town. It's just that simple. There's no logical point in that."

Weller said Lehigh employees and managers have a history in the town andhave family there.

"That's why it's particularly offensive to me to think I'd allow anything to happen to endanger those people," he said.

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