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SV village board: burn pile complaints and discussion, development projects and assessor's plat

A debris pile burning on Westland Drive in Spring Valley has some neighbors upset and worried about their health. You can see houses in the background behind the dumpsite. Sarah Nigbor / RiverTown Multimedia

Spring Valley residents appeared at a village board meeting Monday night, April 8 to express their concerns about the recent burning of the debris pile in the industrial park.

The debris pile has existed on Westland Drive for nearly 20 years and was being used and burned every few years before new housing developments were built nearby, Village Board President Marsha Brunkhorst said.

Chair of the Public Works committee Andy Vorlicek decided the pile, which was growing too high to reach the debris at the top to haul out, should be burned about a week ago.

The pile has never been completely cleared out and was full of burned remnants of storm-damaged tree debris, yard waste, lumber and some pieces of furniture from over 10 years ago, Vorlicek said.

After the recent burn, the pile has compressed about a quarter of what it was and is much easier to access to start hauling old debris out, Vorlicek said.

Residents near the area were given paper notifications at their door asking them to prepare for the pile to be burning the week of April 1-5.

Amy Berg, a resident living 83 yards from the pile, was first to voice her complaint about the burning for which she felt she could not prepare.

"I'm confident that the decisions that were made were not made with ill intentions but I absolutely need to go on the record to say that cannot happen again," Berg said. "The wind has blown the smoke directly into our house. Like somebody setting a campfire right here and burning for seven days straight."

Berg said she and her husband have experienced health conditions from the smoke in the house including headaches, burning and runny eyes and coughing. Berg is also a cancer survivor and said she has a 50-60% chance of the cancer returning, causing her to worry about it reappearing in her lungs.

"It's a health hazard. As long as I live there I will do everything I can to keep that from happening again," Berg said.

Vorlicek said the last the pile burned was about four years ago, which was extinguished soon after due to neighbor complaints. Public Works then looked to haul it out but it would cost over $30,000 which was unaffordable for the village.

"I understand your concerns, I understand you're upset about it. I understand smoke is not good," Vorlicek said.

"I think we hear enough from people here saying that it may not be the best spot for it. Do we have any property on the east side of town?" Trustee Rich O'Connell asked.

Brunkhorst said there is no other land for the debris pile near the village.

The village can consider three options Vorlicek said:

• Shut down the debris pile from being used entirely.

• Charge people to dump at the debris pile.

• Let people dump for free but they must respect the separate piles to be managed. One pile would consist of compost and yard waste to be used for mulch and another pile would be wood-type items to be hauled out. If people cannot follow the rules than the debris pile would be shut down.

Trustee Matt Huepfel and Brunkhorst both said the village should and will do a better job of managing the pile more aggressively.

Once it dries up equipment will be sent to the pile to start hauling, Vorlicek said.

"Basically you're going to have a fresh start once that thing is cleaned up, once all of it's hauled out. Now we can have a clean start and have separate piles that people hopefully respect. If the case is where they don't get used properly, it doesn't bother me to shut it down," Vorlicek said.

Eligible redevelopment projects

Spring Valley is looking to apply for the Community Development Block Grant Public Facilities Program (CDBG-PF) funds which is a very competitive program. Two-thirds of the project costs will be covered by the program up to about $1.5 million.

Wastewater treatment plant and well projects have been completed in the past for Spring Valley under this program.

Grant applications are due May 16 and the board discussed which project would be eligible for funding as the program is based on a point system for certain projects.

The public was allowed to give feedback as well and suggest any projects which the board was not aware of. At the meeting, though there were residents present, no one gave comment.

Cedar Corporation identified the water main looping at the north end of town as ineligible because listing that project would make Spring Valley's points weaker for application. Public Works has discussed completing the water main looping but as a separate project as it is an urgent need.

The board discussed the highest-fundable project which would redevelop Eau Galle Road, determining it would stretch from Highway 29 to Akers Street.

Other business

• The board unanimously approved to start the process of completing an assessor's plat to divy up controversial property amongst the Aubarts and Gregorys with the counsel of village attorney Rory O'Sullivan.

• Cory Schmitz was awarded an operator's license on an appeal which was submitted and reviewed because of being convicted of a 2007 OWI felony in Minnesota.

• Payments to Springlake, NEO Electrical and Mineral Services were approved with the exception of waiting for payroll to be submitted from Springlake and Mineral Services.

• O'Connell reported the potential impacts of building a new school which was passed in the recent referendum will draw 20-23% less people into the public library.

• Police Chief John DuBois said the department will be enforcing spring cleaning.

• Village Clerk Luann Emerson said about 52% of voters came out on April 2 to cast their votes. She added she thought it would have been higher considering the referendum was on the ballot.

Rachel Helgeson

Rachel Helgeson

(651) 301-7864
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