Waukon City Council discusses Town & Country Sanitation recycling cost concerns, action against Aveka and potential meat packing plant matters

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, May 17 to address a full agenda of items including discussion of a Trees Forever contribution and tree replacement program, an extra assessment from Town & Country Sanitation relating to increased recycling costs and discussion of actions to be taken against Aveka Nutra Processing.

There was no Public Comment and the meeting moved forward into the Buddy Poppies Proclamation with Mayor Pat Stone reading aloud that May 28-29 is recognized as American Legion Auxiliary Buddy Poppy Days. Stone encouraged residents to support this cause by wearing a memorial poppy in honor of the sacrifices of the men and women who have risked their lives in defense of this nation’s freedoms.

Under Department Reports, Waukon Park and  Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that the swimming pool has been filled, with warm temperatures still being necessary to adequately heat the water in preparation for opening next Wednesday, after the last day of school. Strub noted that demand for campsites has started earlier than in previous years and that youth soccer has finished and the summer recreation program will begin as the school year ends. Strub said that additional volunteer coaches are needed for baseball and that there is a great line-up of performers scheduled for the Music in the Park performances in June and July.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper advised that a generator at the old wastewater treatment plant will potentially be sold through sealed bids. Council member Arvid Hatlan recommended that the specifications and details be publicized to inform those interested in bidding and to eliminate questions and phone calls. Cooper also provided an update relating to the conversion to the new wastewater treatment plant to take place soon.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett provided an update relating to tree removal and maintenance. Police Chief Paul Wagner reported that several officers have attended a recent automated external defibrillator (AED) training session in anticipation of a grant to be awarded. Wagner discussed that some mechanical problems arose with an old squad car during an officer’s recent trip to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), with this vehicle being planned for sale or trade-in.

City Manager Gary Boden discussed recent communications with Aveka Nutra Processing relating to their plans to resolve issues involved with water and contaminant discharges. Boden said that he, Stone and Cooper were part of a recent meeting to review those plans. Boden noted that Aveka is proposing to add $1.5 million in modifications to better address discharge issues with Boden recommending that the council give them the go-ahead on making these improvements.

Boden also discussed a special work session at the Wellness Center being scheduled for next week to include discussion of capital improvement planning. Boden discussed a recent meeting with Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering relating to water and sewer planning for the development of the former Bresnahan property.

Mayor Stone provided his report, noting that the plans recently provided by Aveka seem to be adequate for their proposed containment system. Stone said that there will be some delays into August due to a pump required for this system with the other modifications completed before then. Cooper, Boden and Stone advised that recent pH levels have been within limits with Cooper further noting that improvements have been made in monitoring this issue at Aveka. Boden discussed the containment system planned at Aveka, noting that acids or bases will be added to correct water pH levels before discharge.

The Public Hearing for Amendment #2 of the Current Budget for Fiscal-Year Ending June 30, 2021 was opened and closed without verbal or written comment. The Resolution for Amendment #2 of the Current Budget for Fiscal-Year Ending June 30, 2021 was approved by the council.

Boden addressed the next matter relating to discussion of the Trees Forever contribution. Boden said that the local Trees Forever Board is likely ending other than the feedback and advisory support of Dr. Ken Olson and Joe Cunningham relating to future tree planting initiatives. Boden said that tree planting will be focused on private property and not on boulevards moving forward per the direction of the council. Boden noted that the $3,000 previously designated for the Trees Forever program could be moved over to the $5,000 budgeted for tree replacement to be handled administratively. He said that Strub will be overseeing tree replacement moving forward with the assistance of Park and Rec staff. Hatlan discussed opportunities for matching funds available through his employer, Black Hills Energy, and recommended that these opportunities be pursued. The council approved the funding transfer to the tree replacement program.

Wagner discussed the next agenda item relating to crossing lights at Ninth Street and Third Avenue NW. He said that a grant through the Allamakee County Foundation has been pursued with that organization currently being in the review and decision making process relating to this grant award. Council members John Ellingson and Hatlan discussed the need for crossing lights at this and other intersections within Waukon. Wagner said that an estimate of $8,300 not including installation has been provided for the pedestrian crossing lighting that has been proposed. The council approved to move forward with a letter of support relating to this project and grant application.

Director Ardie Kuhse of Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) addressed the next matter relating to direction on planters for the Plaza in downtown Waukon. Kuhse requested permission to move forward in adding three planters within the Plaza area. Kuhse also discussed the potential addition of outdoor benches within this area while allowing businesses, organizations or individuals to purchase them with recognition placards to be installed. The council approved to move forward with three planters for the Plaza area.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn introduced the next agenda item relating to Town & Country Sanitation’s extra assessment for increased recycling costs. Town & Country’s decision to bill an additional charge of $60 per ton for the disposal of recyclables, a surcharge not currently part of their contract with the City, has been previously discussed by the council with Stinn attempting to contact Town & Country for further details and clarification on the matter. City Clerk Sarah Snitker discussed her recent communications with Town & Country relating to the company’s financial losses in handling and transporting recyclable materials.

Ellingson provided some background on waste management and recycling trends in Wisconsin, with Town & Country Sanitation being a Wisconsin-based company. Stinn and Stone discussed the financial request from Town & Country at an increase of approximately $10,000 annually to compensate for increased recycling costs. The council further discussed the breakdown of this potential additional cost as only $7-10 per household per year. Following discussion, the council approved to have Boden negotiate a flat rate for recycling with Town & Country.

The council moved into the discussion and direction relating to action against Aveka. Ellingson discussed phone calls and emails received from residents relating to two recent incidents involving Aveka Nutra Processing’s smokestack emissions. Ellingson said that a white dextrose-like particulate has been released by Aveka with this waxy film being noticeable on houses, vehicles and plant life in town. Ellingson discussed this matter as a violation of Federal law and provided a recommendation for the City Attorney to draft letters to State and Federal  levels of Government in addition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Stone further discussed concerns relating to Aveka’s impact upon the new Wastewater Treatment Plant’s biologic based operations and upon air quality. Stone discussed the continued monitoring of Aveka’s operations relating to air and water discharges with Ellingson further discussing emission and discharge issues dating back 10 years and recommending that Aveka be held accountable and operate within Federal regulations. Following additional discussion, the council approved to move forward in drafting a letter to State and Federal Government in addition to the EPA relating to Aveka’s discharge and emissions violations.

Ellingson provided feedback on the next agenda item relating to direction to not expend staff time or funds to work on a project to locate a meat packing plant in Waukon. Ellingson summarized that the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is working with a siting firm in looking at potential locations for a meat processing plant with a location in the southwest corner of Waukon under consideration with water, sewer and utility needs being reviewed and planned for.

Ellingson discussed the negative social outcomes and negative economic impacts he has seen in communities like Tama, Lime Springs, Postville, Estherville, Eagle Grove and Mason City where meat processing plants have been located, noting that meat processing jobs generally pay below the median average in a community and subsidization of housing, hospitals, schools, law enforcement and other services being necessary. Ellingson recommended that no further staff time or funds be put toward the project.

Boden suggested that there has been some initial misinformation in the community relating to the review and siting process involved in this project. He clarified that this search process conducted by the siting firm is preliminary with multiple states and several potential locations being under review. Boden also said there has been a limited amount of time spent in planning this location as a potential industrial area.

Following discussion, Ellingson made a motion to not authorize City staff to expend any further time, resources or participation on this project with the motion dying due to a lack of a second. Following that lack of support, no official action was taken relating to this discussion.