Blair council favors switch to garbage cans

The Blair city council appears to be in favor of switching from garbage bags to garbage cans once it is able to figure out how to handle the billing process.

The only vote taken on the issue was to send it back to the commit-tee level to figure out how, exactly, to bill for the garbage cans. Council members all seemed in favor of going from garbage bags for garbage cans, but they were unable to decide how to collect payment once the switch is made.

The switch was pitched to the council by Tri City Sanitation owner Dave Pientok who said his company would like to change the way it picks up garbage to limit workman’s compensation claims. The company’s trucks could lift the cans into the back instead of having an employee manually lift the bags. Pientok said that many residents will actually save money using the cans, which range from $7.50 to $12.50 per month de-pending on if residents want 35- or 64-gallon cans. 

The sticking point, however, is how the city can be sure each resident is paying for garbage collection. While the garbage bags are paid for at the time of the purchase, the garbage cans would have to be invoiced. 

The initial thought was that the bills would be included on the utility invoices sent out quarterly. City attorney Mark Radcliffe wondered if the Public Service Commission would allow that, noting strict regulations.

“I don’t think the PSC will allow you to do it, but that’s just an edu-ated guess,” Radcliffe said. 

Even if they did, Radcliffe suggested it might be difficult to collect payment since any money paid to the city would first go toward utility costs and the city would still not get paid for garbage collection.

“If you give them a cart and they’re not paying for it, you’ve added a collection job on the clerk’s office,” Radcliffe said. 

It was also suggested that payment for the cans could be included on property taxes, but that could be particularly tricky with the city’s three mobile home parks. While each mobile home is metered, the owners of the homes do not own the property they sit on and, therefore, do not get property tax bills. City clerk Debi Fremstad said the city isn’t always made aware when residents move in or out of the mobile homes. 

Council member Jeremy Tranberg suggested that the owners of each mobile home park should be required to supply a dumpster for residents to use. Tranberg, who owns Blair Haus Sports Bar and Grill, said that city business owners are required to have a dumpster. Council member Chris Ekern agreed that mobile home park owners should be considered business owners and Radcliffe suggested they should be treated the same. 

“How fair is it that some businesses are paying for garbage pick-up and others are getting it for free,” Radcliffe asked. 

While there was some concern that a dumpster would become a “free for all” Ekern suggested that the trailer court owners could lock the dumpster and supply each resident with a key. 

The council ultimately decided to have the committee take a closer look at the billing process before moving forward.

In other matters, the council took no action after hearing from Dwight Frederixon of the Blair Industrial Development Cooperation that 22 of the 23 landowners in the Wildcat Division signed an agreement to allow duplexes to be built. However, without unanimous support, Radcliffe recommended the city not allow the duplexes.

Radcliffe said that it is likely the landowners who did not agree signed a covenant that prevented duplexes from being built near their property when they purchased the lot. Should the city proceed with allowing duplexes in previously unagreed upon areas, it could face a lawsuit.

Council member Dennis Stephenson said he thought the landowners could be persuaded to sign should the city reimburse them for the lot, which it is doing to those who have purchased lots within the last year. Another potential solution was to not allow duplexes to be built near that specific landowner. 

In either case, the council decided to attempt to negotiate with the hopes to get the last property owner in that development to allow duplex-es to be built.

Frederixon said there could be as many as 11 duplexes that go in the development. 

The council voted to launch a Blair-Taylor Park and Recreation web-site. The cost will be a one-time $625 start-up fee then an annual fee of $414, both split with Taylor should the village also agree on the website. The site will include schedules and updates for those participating in the park and rec program. It also allows for advertisements to be sold, which could offset the costs. 

The council agreed to allow ice skating on Lake Henry this winter. While the ropes for the area have already been put up, council members agreed to make the area larger, but will look at other options for next year. 

Ekern suggested purchasing equipment to build a new rink in the park – possibly by the Schroeder Shelter. While area residents have ex-pressed a desire to skate on the lake, Ekern noted safety issues including a snowblower that, apparently, went through the ice at one time. 

“Yeah, it’s a tradition, that’s what I keep hearing,” Ekern said. “But it’s also a safety issue.”

Radcliffe warned the council against possible liability issues.

“Remember, if you’re going to have the ice-skating rink on Lake Henry, it is the municipality’s responsibility to close it when people shouldn’t be on there,” Radcliffe said. 

The council also voted to repeal and create an ordinance that restricts all animals – domesticated or not – from running at large. The previous ordinance named only domesticated animals and Radcliffe said that made it so the city could not prosecute someone who had a nondomesticated animal at large in the city limits. 


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