Council denies district’s request to burn stumps
The Baldwin City Council is divided on whether to allow the Baldwin School District an exception to the city's burn ordinance.
Council Member Ken Wagner was absent from Monday's meeting, which left the council's decision to allow the district to burn timber at the new elementary school site in a 2-2 tie.
Mayor Ken Hayes broke the tie by voting against allowing the school an exception to the city's burn ordinance -- but only for now.
The school district has approximately an acre of timber -- everything from branches to stumps -- left over from construction at the new elementary school site.
The district is required by the city to remove the debris. The district has plans to allow the public access to any timber it wants, but also wants to be allowed to burn the leftover timber to save hauling expenses.
The city's burn ordinance allows anyone to burn timber less than four inches in diameter, which is a majority of the district's debris. But because the district has several pieces of wood larger than four inches in diameter, it is asking for an exception to the ordinance.
Council Member Nancy Brown said the public safety committee recommended it allow the district an exception to the ordinance, but with guidelines in place.
Brown said the committee recommended the district be required to burn the material by Nov. 1, and remove remaining debris by Nov. 7.
She said an exception was being recommended for the district because of its already tight budget, and it would save taxpayers in the long run.
Council Member Todd Cohen said he disagreed with the committee's recommendation.
"I think there's a reason for the burn ordinance. I think we probably ought to stick with our guns," Cohen said. "We're talking about stumps basically."
He said he thought people in the area should be notified of the district's request and allow the public an opportunity to respond to it.
Baldwin resident Gene Nelson told the council one of the reason's the burn ordinance was passed was because of people's health issues, such as emphysema.
Nelson also told the council to remember the northwest winds that would be a possibility when the school would be burning in October. He said it would blow the smoke over Baldwin.
Council Member Ted Brecheisen said he wanted to wait until after the public had a chance to take some of the wood away before making decision on the issue. He said the city would then have a better idea of how much would need to be burned.
Hayes said he voted against allowing the district an exception to the ordinance for several reasons.
"One, the health issue," he said. "And I don't think it's a good idea to have that sort of burn going on next to the city."
He said he would be interested in having the council discuss the issue again once the public has had an opportunity to clear some of the wood.
"I think we should revisit the issue when the pile is cut to pieces and we can see how much we're dealing with," he said.