Brush pile concerns in Watkins are addressed by Benton Supervisors

VINTON – Sticks, leaves, branches, grass.

Benton County Courthouse

How Benton County handles its yard waste was discussed by the Benton County Board of Supervisors at their Sept. 17 meeting in Vinton.

Supervisor Tracy Seeman explained to the board that communities that Van Horne, Atkins, Keystone Newhall and Walford all have town burn piles. Blairstown’s is closed. It goes to the landfill, or they find somebody to take it. Belle Plaine has a compost pile. Garrison takes big stuff to Vinton or home burn. Luzerne has burning on their own properties. Norway has a compost pile. Urbana has everything go to the garbage. Shellsburg has a compost pile. The big trees come up to Vinton.

The information came as the county decides what to do with yard waste in Watkins. Watkins is not an incorporated community. Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer’s concern is that if something is burned on county property, the county will get sued. He wondered if there was a place on the individual properties to burn.

Seeman said there is no place to burn in Watkins.

Ben Bonar, Benton County Weed Commissioner handed out Iowa Code 318.3(6) and 318.6 Public Nuisance. He said placement of waste on the highway right of way is illegal, which creates an obstruction in the right of way. This creates a public nuisance and is punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor.

In the past, Watkins used to have a burn pile. It was so big it caught surrounding trees on fire. So a “no dumping” sign was put up. The sign was spray painted, and soon was stolen, Bonar said.


This year, Bonar took a video of the pile. A tech burned it and a sign was placed again. He stressed dumping there was against state law. He thought the pile started when a supervisor many years ago said dumping was allowed after a massive windstorm hit the area. This is a continuation of this.

Bonar wanted to find a site that does not amount to a heaping pile of garbage in the ditch. He has not found that yet.

Seeman questioned waiting six months to burn a pile. He felt they should let the residents burn it. Bonar’s concern was the burning of shingles at the gas that his workers are exposed to from this, as well as the danger of aerosol cans in the pile. He wants to know what’s in the pile and not a mystery pile in a ditch.

Bonar also saw it as frustrating that the landfill is not far away.

If it is allowed to be burned, Hansen was also concerned about the precedent it sets. He doesn’t have time to handle the brush in all of the communities. Bonar said he didn’t know how stop it unless they put up cameras and enforced it. The challenge is figuring out who dumped the garbage.

“It’s my recommendation that they don’t pile it and burn it there. It’s against law, you know, and I don’t want the county to get sued,” Primmer stressed. “They need to do their home burning and/or find alternative spots.”

Primmer added, “What good are the rules if you don’t follow them?”

Other business

A land use hearing was set for Tuesday, Oct. 15, 9:15 a.m., for Mark and Crystal Manos for land in 20-86-9. A hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. for Kurt and Elizabeth Blankenhorn for land in 12-82-9.

The full-time status of Sydney Barton was approved in the sheriff’s office. She was part-time in communications.

Jennifer Toenjes was appointed to the Veterans Affairs Commission.

Timothy Dille was approved as assistant attorney in the county attorney’s office. This is for four years.

The board canvassed the Vinton-Shellsburg School special election.

A proclamation was approved for Tuesday, Sept. 24, as National Voter Registration Day.

A hearing was set for Oct. 22 for courthouse tuck-pointing and water proofing bids.

Tax abatements were considered on two parcels in Belle Plaine. Assessor Larry Andressen was at the meeting to explain why one of the parcels shouldn’t be exempt, since it was not going to be used for public purposes. It has already been sold to a private individual, Andressen said, after it was leveled and cleaned. They city sought an abatement of $788 for 2018. He said it was up to the board. “I don’t care. I’m just giving you the information,” Andressen told the board. The board took no action and denied the abatement. The second abatement request for $792 was approved. It is for public use.

Law enforcement contracts were approved with Newhall, Shellsburg, Van Horne and Luzerne.

A dirt road upgrade request was made for 11th Ave. (north of US Highway 30), near the Highway 21 interchange project. It would help two area farmers if this road was rocked, according to Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek. Parizek questioned if the county could use the approach made with sealcoating, in which the landowners pay for half, and the county pays half. Primmer saw nothing wrong with the 50/50 approach used in the past. Parizek said final interchange design plans are being put together now by the state, and they might let the project next spring. It might take two construction seasons to complete. No action was taken, though Primmer recommended budgeting something for 2021.

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