Waukon City Council moves forward with plans to help Aveka alleviate processing odor

by Bob Beach

Representatives from the Aveka facility in Waukon were present for the City Council's regular meeting Monday, March 2 to participate in an ongoing discussion about the smell produced by the facility. City Attorney Jim Garrett told the Council that the number and seriousness of complaints have convinced him, legally speaking, that the smell is "clearly a nuisance problem" that he would feel comfortable pursuing in court, but that he would not do so without instructions from the Council.
Former Waukon Councilman John Ellingson said that one family has left town already because of the smell, but added that it is not just the smell that concerns him, but also Aveka's use of the City's sanitary and storm sewers.
Mayor Loren Beneke said that the City is moving forward with plans to co-sign a loan for Aveka to fund the cost of installation of a "bag house" to mitigate the smell. Responding to concerns about the City's financial involvement with Aveka on the project, Beneke said that Aveka has not previously asked for financial assistance from the City. He noted that the City has assisted other businesses in the past and added that Aveka has brought 40 jobs to Waukon.
Councilman Don Steffens said that he feels that Aveka is sincere about doing what can be done about the smell and Councilman Steve Wiedner added that he believes that Aveka is making a good faith effort to address the problem.
A representative from Aveka told the Council that the bag house could be installed and in operation by July 1 and its effectiveness in mitigating the smell would be assessed over the two-month period after that. He said that similar equipment had been installed at Aveka's Fredericksberg facility and that the consensus there was that the bag house reduced the odor 80%, but he conceded that the process and the smell at that facility were not the same as those in Waukon and the bag house may not be as effective here. He added that if the bag house is not as effective as desired, an oxidizer could be added by next summer.
Mayor Beneke told the members of the public present to "keep an eye on us. We're going to keep working on this." He said that it is the consensus of the Council to move forward with plans to co-sign a loan so that Aveka can proceed with the installation of the bag house as soon as possible.
In related matters, the Council held a public hearing regarding an amendment to the Southeast Urban Renewal Plan to allow the City to incur as much as $500,000 in debt to help Aveka mitigate the smell produced by its facility. Hearing no comments, the public hearing was closed and the Council passed a resolution to approve the amendment. The Council also held a public hearing regarding an ordinance to allow the City to collect additional TIF revenues if the property value of the Aveka facility increases. Hearing no comments during that public hearing, the Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance.
The Council also approved a Debt Service Equalization Agreement in regard to the newly constructed fire station. The agreement allows the City to share the benefits of the interest-free loan it received from Allamakee-Clayton REC for construction of the fire station with the rural townships also included in the Waukon Area Fire Protection District.
In other business, the Council held a public hearing regarding the City's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. Hearing no comments, the Council approved the proposed budget. The Council also approved Veterans Memorial Hospital's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. Approval was also given by the Council for the purchase of four lights at the airport at a cost of $1,830.95 to replace lights damaged by vandalism.