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County wrangles with weeds

By Staff | Sep 17, 2008

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors discussed at length Tuesday weed problems throughout the county, particularly in eastern Emmet County.

Don Reffer, who has the weed-spraying contract with the county, and Weed Commissioner Roxanne Christensen were on hand to explain why weed eradication is not up to the county’s standards. When it was over, Reffer agreed to bear the labor and fuel cost of spot spraying again throughout the county if the county pays for the chemicals.

Supervisor Al Madden began the discussion, saying the effectiveness of weed eradication was not what the county would like it to be.

Reefer said he would be willing to go back and do spot treatment in the eastern part of the county if the county could pay for the chemicals. Reefer explained that high brome grass prevented crews from seeing thistles when they spot sprayed in eastern Emmet County. He said though that thistles would be easier to see in fall after brome was dormant. He said three counties where he sprays have gone to fall spraying due to a similar situation.

Christensen said another issue was complaints that drivers were going too fast when spraying.

Reefer said he needed to be told of such situations in order to do something about them.

“I don’t think it’s our responsibility to call you to manage your people,” said Supervisor Jim Jenson. “Our problem is paying to get the job done and not getting it done.”

Supervisor Ron Smith said he opposed spot spring from now on. “If it’s thistles we’re going in the fall, I’d like to try to have the county broadcast,” Smith said.

Christensen said the west side of the county was broadcast and the east side spot sprayed. She acknowledged that when driving around the county she thought the west side looked better. She noted though that weeds around fencelines, signs, and lightpoles were a problem.

“Our goal is to have nice, brome grass ditches and as few thistles as possible,” Christensen said. “So what do you suggest that we do?” she asked Reffer.

County Engineer Roger Patocka said cost was a primary concern for him in regard to broadcast spraying. “I’m of the opinion that a rifle approach rather than a shotgun approach is a better thing,” he said. He said while fall spring would get a good fall kill, there would be seed carryover to next spring.

Reefer said counties where he did fall spraying were happier with the results. He agreed to again spot spray eastern Emmet County this fall if the the county would pay for chemicals.

That didn’t put the issue to rest quite yet, though.

County Maintenance Supervisor Roger Grethen said when half of the thistles in a ditch die and the others don’t, it was an application problem. He was speaking of the western portion of the county.

Maddan agreed that the quality of the work was also an issue where blanket spraying was done in western Emmet County.

“We still need to have it fixed this fall,” Jenson said. “They should have hit the backslope there and now we wouldn’t have a timing issue. And I think we need to do it this fall. And personally I expect to have it fixed. I’m proposing that they fix it. Go ahead and pay for the product (for western Emmet County) but I’m not voting to have it done again.”

Reffer said he avoided spraying in front of certain places in High Lake Township where flowerbeds were near the ditches.

Patocka said rural property owners that don’t want their property sprayed can come to the county engineer’s office and get a sign to post on their property.

“If somebody wants it sprayed, let us know. We’ll do it,” Reffer said.

“I don’t want to have to put a sign at my place, please spray,” Smith said.

“If it’s the responsibility of the county, then do it,” said Paul Enerson. “You didn’t spray the backslope and that’s ridiculous,” he told Reffer.

The board agreed to bear the cost of spot spraying for eastern Emmet County and spot spraying where necessary in western Emmet County.