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Weed spraying issues keep popping up in county

By Staff | Feb 22, 2017

Tuesday’s meeting of the Emmet County Board of Supervisors revisited a few thorny issues, ones that have faced the county for a number of years.

County engineer Walter Davis-Oeth said, “We will make sure we do an adequate job advertising what we’re doing.”

The issue, according to Don Reefer, who has the weed spraying contract with the county, is liability.

“Most of our liability is for spraying in front of the residence,” Reefer said.

Reefer said, “We stay on the same side in front of the residence. It used to be we’d go 300 feet on the same side unless they had a garden or something in front.”

About handling the potential liability, Reefer said, “If you do spray, you can’t go pick it up. If you don’t spray and they want you to, we can always go back and spray it. You’d be surprised by the complaints we receive, and they could lead to liability.”

The current scope of spraying is from the center of the ditch to the road. This is a safeguard to make sure the chemicals are applied away from the vegetation, Reefer said.

Weed Commissioner Roxanne Christensen said, “Residents can sign a paper every year to tell us, ‘Don’t spray.'”

Traditionally, property owners who did not want their property sprayed came to the county engineer’s office to get a sign to post on their property

“As long as we stay in the right-of-way, we should be okay,” Reefer said.

Davis-Oeth said, “There’s a handful of reasons to do it or not to do it. If you don’t do it, thistle will grow. If you do it, you might spray areas that are more sensitive than others, and affect the vegetation. It’s a judgment call.”

Supervisor Tim Schumacher asked, “What other options do we have to control weeds and keep the environment safe? I have a lot of questions, and I don’t know all the answers.”

Reefer said there were a number of organic farms starting and growing in Kossuth County.

“Some of our spraying includes killing clover, which the bees use,” Reefer said.

Davis-Oeth said, “I don’t believe the county has certified organic farmers other than a few whose certification predates my employment here. I don’t know what the process of becoming certified was for them.”

Supervisor Jeff Quastad said, “We are missing thistles and other weeds because we can do better. We are missing a lot. The stop signs near Ingham Lake have solid thistle.”

Davis-Oeth said, “We will publicize a new policy. We will be on the agenda for a week, make available the no-spraying paperwork for those who want it, and put the contract to a public hearing.”

Supervisor John Pluth moved the conversation to the secondary roads crew’s graveling during the high temperatures of the past week.

Davis-Oeth said, “Doing it now will cover up the black spots.”

Pluth said, “My concern is with the frozen ground and the upcoming forecast, a lot of the gravel will end up back in the ditch.”

Davis-Oeth said, “It is not our usual course of action [to gravel in February], but doing something is a judgment call. We need to maintain the gravel roads even though it is still February. Doing nothing could be as risky as being proactive.”

“I disagree,” Pluth said.

The public hearing for the weed control policy was set for March 14 at 9:30 a.m.

The supervisors also appointed Barb Bohm as Zoning Commissioner.

Emmet County Emergency Management Coordinator Terry Reekers said, “In my position, I’m not allowed to issue permits, but [Bohm] would be. I will be on hand to help her in any way I can with flood plain administration. I have plats, maps, and 26 years of experience.”

Reekers also presented a renewal of the Hazard Mitigation agreement with the State of Iowa. It is backed by a grant for $30,000, of which a $7,500 match is required by the county.

The next meeting of the Emmet County Board of Supervisors is Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. in the board room of the Emmet County Courthouse.