Letter will ask homeowners to clean up
Dear property owner, If you have a refrigerator, TV, couch or mattress lying in your front yard, it's time for you to get it cleaned up. That's the message the Wadena City Council hopes will be relayed in a letter being mailed to residents in the...
Dear property owner,
If you have a refrigerator, TV, couch or mattress lying in your front yard, it's time for you to get it cleaned up.
That's the message the Wadena City Council hopes will be relayed in a letter being mailed to residents in the storm-damaged area.
The council met in special session Wednesday night after a bus tour of the city to assess the cleanup effort. All in all, council members and city staff were impressed with the progress, but there were some troubled spots.
"I'm amazed with how much cleanup has happened," City Administrator Brad Swenson said. "There isn't that much miscellaneous debris."
But the council did see some debris and junk on city boulevards. While city crews have been hauling away tree debris, the city has been urging residents to use their homeowners insurance settlements to pay for a contractor to take demolition debris, appliances and furniture to the appropriate spots.
"We're not going to take couches, mattresses. That stuff is expensive [to dispose of]," said councilman Toby Pierce.
That became the basic debate among city leaders: should the city just step up and remove everything on the city right of way because it's becoming a health issue, or should the city prod residents to clean the items up themselves?
"How long are we going to have people look at this junk?" asked Mayor Wayne Wolden.
Wolden argued the city should just clean up some of the messes that have become health hazards or at least unsightly, and then try to recover the expense either through FEMA reimbursement or by putting the cost of cleanup on the property taxes of the homeowner.
Swenson argued it's appropriate to send a letter to residents telling them that they're responsible for cleanup, and see if that works first.
"If we aren't going to use the letter, let's not send the dang thing," Swenson said.
He argued it's a matter of fairness -- if some residents did what they were supposed to do and got their properties cleaned up at their own expense, why should they now be asked to foot the bill through city taxes for those who didn't?
"Most people have done their own cleanup of debris," Swenson said. "Is it fair to now go pick up the 15-20 properties that didn't do it on their own?"
"I think send the letter," said councilwoman Jeanette Baymler. "That's the first thing."
Baymler said the city shouldn't get involved in picking up couches, TVs or other items on the curbs.
The city decided to send the letter, and request Wadena County Public Health's assistance in working with properties that might need more urgent attention because of rotting food, dangerous piles or other health hazards. Police Chief Bruce Uselman is also working with individual property owners where there's a health concern about how they plan to clean up the messes.
The letter gives homeowners until Aug. 16 to complete cleanup of all debris, and until Aug. 30 to complete demolition and removal of destroyed buildings. If those deadlines can't be met, the city asks that homeowners call in to (218) 631-7711 or (218) 631-7707.
If homeowners miss the deadlines and don't call in, the city will then use its nuisance ordinance to clean up the properties themselves and bill the owners for the time.
The city is also collecting bids from contractors to trim trees with dangerous branches, pull out stumps or do stump grinding.