Tree burn site solution offered

Friday, September 10, 2021

A possible solution has been presented to rid Altans of ash trees being destroyed by the emerald ash borer.

Brad Bunjes has offered use of his rural property to accept remains of trees taken down on private property in town, meeting the requirements of the Department of Natural Resources, which forbids residents from burning trees in town, or hauling remains of infected trees outside of the county.

Al Clark, former mayor who appeared on behalf of Bunjes at this week’s city council meeting, said that Bunjes understood that the city was in a bind, and offered use of his property in good will.

“There’s been a lot of heartburn and heartbreak,” Clark said of the ash tree situation, which has left Alta property owners with nowhere to go with trees that need to be taken down.

To simplify the process as much as possible, Bunjes is offering to lease his property to the city for $5,000 for one year, and will fence and gate the site, and install security cameras.

As the DNR stipulates, the city would need to be in control of the site and monitor its use. The site meets distance requirements from any other homes, to allow for burning. If the city wishes to recoup some of the lease cost, it could charge a per-load fee to the public, Clark said.

City officials said the conversation on the possible lease will need to continue. Pam Henderson, filling in for mayor Kevin Walsh, thanked Bunjes for his proposal, and noted that the city is continuing to work toward some help for residents who are trying to get rid of trees.

In other business addressed by the council:

• A proposal to make residential Main Street no-parking on both sides was tabled. The city Planning and Zoning Commission wants to see a feasibility study done before action is taken. The city council sees the parking situation as a safety issue, as it is difficult for to lanes of traffic to pass with parked cars on one side of the street. There is also some concern that eliminating parked cars could increase the speed of traffic on Main, where a school is located. There was also some discussion of the need for stop signs in the school area. Some of the council members felt that the P&Z should be asked to forward a recommendation for the council to consider.

• Security lighting was mentioned also as an issue arising from recent P&Z discussion. There is some concern that security lighting in some areas is shining into private residences as night, causing a potential nuisance, according to the code officer. The item was not in the agenda, and no action was taken at this time.

• Discussion continued on whether the city needs a full-time code officer. The P&Z supports the change from part-time, in anticipation of additional housing projects coming in, the council was told. According to the city clerk, however, other towns Alta’s size that were surveyed and responded did not have a full-time person. No decision was made.

• Some concern was expressed about stumps from removed trees not being ground down low enough for grass to be established over them. Council member Willie Lang felt the city has not gotten its money’s worth from the contractor, and suggested the city take over the process itself in the future.

• Council member Pam Henderson suggested the council will need to look at ordinances on solar power in the near future, as more of those energy projects are taking place in Iowa communities.

• The council agreed to the purchase of a new Bobcat skid-steer loader for the street department, after several competing models were checked out.

• A shingling project was approved for four structures including city hall, the park shelter, pool bathhouse and water system pump house, made possible with insurance coverage for recent storm damage. With competing bids, the council decided to go with a local company.

• A liquor license and outdoor service was approved for a recently opened pizzeria, Patio 220.

• In an update on the Lake Street railroad crossing, city officials said they have been led to believe that new track and a crossing signal with arms will be i nstalled, hopefully yet this fall.

• City officials issued a reminder that the deadline to file nominations for the upcoming city election would be Sept. 16. The mayor’s seat, two council positions and two park board positions in Alta will be on the ballot. “We need more people to run. I believe it (more participation) makes us a stronger city. It makes any city stronger,” City Clerk Megan Peterson said.