Council deadlocked on leaf-burning ban

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 14, 2003

A stalemate caused by the absence of a city councilor at Monday night’s regular meeting will force the city council to once again vote on leaf burning in the next few months.

A 3-3 tie was the result of a vote on whether to ban leaf burning. Councilor Randy Erdman made a motion to ban burning, and his motion was supported by George Marin and mayor Jean Eaton. Councilors Jeff Fjelstad, Al Brooks and Warren Amundson voted against the measure.

The council heard from many concerned community members before voting.

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&uot;This is really about the health of the community,&uot; said Sandy Chapman, a respiratory therapist from Albert Lea, who brought a petition from private citizens to the council in favor of banning burning. She warned that many people have harsh reactions to the burning, but also said that burning puts carcinogens into the air.

Arnold Shember of Albert Lea said he didn’t want to see a ban.

&uot;I’m in favor of leaf burning. It’s a cheap way to get rid of the leaves,&uot; he said. Shember argued that barbeque grills, fire pits and cigarette smokers do just as much bad for the air as leaf burning.

The tie-breaking vote would have belonged to councilor Mary Kron, who was not in attendance.

Other council notes:

– It was the first official meeting for new councilors Jeff Fjelstad and Randy Erdman as well as Mayor Jean Eaton. All were active in the meeting and each said a few words thanking their voters.

&uot;In November you gave yourselves, by voting new people in, the best Christmas/New Year’s present you possibly could have received,&uot; Fjelstad read from a written statement. &uot;We will now have the most inquisitive, constructive, and complying city council we’ve had in 10 years.&uot;

Fjelstad then offered a challenge to citizens of Albert Lea.

&uot;The people of Albert Lea have to work with the council to better themselves,&uot; he said. First they have to start with their attitudes. People, talk this city up and be proud to live here … Work on your attitudes and we will work for you.&uot;

– The city approved giving the Freeborn County Historical Society $2,500 in extra funding for this year after a request was made by museum curator, Bev Jackson.

– The council authorized the purchase, in cooperation with the county, of G.I.S. surveying equipment, which can be used in construction for plotting maps and land use. The cost to the city will by between $30,000 and $31,000.

– The city approved a resolution to give the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency perform an environmental study on the grounds of Edgewater park which was a city dump from 1956 to 1972.

Recent tests have shown that groundwater and storm water may be contaminated. The MPCA has asked to perform the $75,445 study. If the city did not pass the resolution, they would have been forced by state law to pay for and perform the study themselves.

City Manager Paul Sparks said he is concerned that the consequence of such a study may mean a response action plan has to be instated in order to clean up the pollution. The financial burden of such action may fall on the shoulders of the city.

Sparks, at last week’s pre-agenda meeting, said the possible costs for such clean up could be as expensive as $12 million for the city.

– Councilor Warren Amundson was voted Mayor Pro-Tempore.

– Mayor Eaton made appointments for councilors to committees: Kron to the Human Rights Commission; Erdman to the Planning Commission; Fjelstad to the Planning and Zoning Board; Amundson to the Library Board; Brooks to the Airport Commission and Parks and Recreation Board; and Marin to the Convention and Visitors Board.