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Open burning talk heats up

By Staff | May 20, 2008

Estherville City Council members were handed a hot potato at the Monday meeting which is genuinely a burning issue.

Residential taxpayers aired complaints to the city governing board concerning the city’s definition of recreation fires.

The city code definition reads: “Open fires for cooking, heating, recreation and ceremonies, provided they comply with the limits for emission of visible air contaminants established by the State of Iowa.”

One resident who owns her property stated she is paying taxes on a porch she cannot use because the smoke is so thick. The times are too numerous to count when smoke fills her home as her neighbors ignite a recreational fire.

Her complaint was that materials that are not acceptable are being burned in the fire ring like yard refuse, debris, wet wood and solid waste. She doesn’t think other residents should have to put up with this. “What good is it to have a window open if you smell smoke?”

Councilman Gene Haukoos suggested the city code be more restrictive and the situation be investigated. It was noted that letters have been sent to the offending parties.

Haukoos said the law needs to clarify what can and cannot be burned. “I believe the majority is doing it correctly.”

City Attorney David Forsyth commented on the enforcement. “Where do you draw the line? This is a tough issue to enforce. The police have better things to do than put out fires.”

According to the code, the city cannot stop the residents from burning wood except if the wood is treated 2 by 4s or 4 by 6s, etc.

Council decided to tighten up restrictions on time limit and attended fires. Specifics will pinpoint what wood can be burned and that a possible financial responsibility will be added.

Forsyth will check into these points and meet with city staff to either fine tune the privilege or ban outdoor burning altogether.

Turning attention to municipal improvements, council got a close look at 2008 curb/gutter project for First Avenue South and Second Avenue South.

The body approved lot valuations and adopted the preliminary plat and schedule.

The public hearing has been slated for Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. and will address the resolution of necessity. The same date and time was selected for a public hearing and bid opening for the construction project.

In other action, the council:

n Approved an amendment to the 2007-08 budget following a public hearing.

n OK’d the administrative plan for the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.

n Considered and approved recommendations for contracts for technical/administrative/inspection services for the owner-occupied rehabilitation program.

n Gave its nod to establishing June 1, 2009, as the target date for canopy removal on city right-of-way in the 10 block of South Sixth Street.

n Accepted the following appointments: Rich Lepird and Connie Alvarez to the planning and zoning commission for terms ending April 2013; Becky Hall to the civil service commission for a term ending April 2014; and Ron Menendez to the cable television commission to a term ending May 2013.

n Directed the preparation of an amendment which will clarify the types of structures which are intended to be covered by the city’s commercial building standards.

n Approved an application for renewal of a Class C Liquor License and Sunday Sales Permit for Anthony B. Condon dba Woody’s Pizza at 9 West North First Street, pending completion of application information.

n Passed a sign permit application for Jose Luis Aguilar for his small jobs garage at 620 S. Ninth St.

n Received an update the Sweet Corn Daze Committee had freed up public parking with the decision to not close North Fifth Street during the celebration in early August.