By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It’s spring — and the Colfax Village Board would like village residents to clean up their yards.
The village should be encouraging yard clean-up and urging village residents to get rid of those mattresses and old tires and other debris, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, at the Colfax Village Board’s March 23 meeting.
Niggemann said she suspected much of the problem was due to residents having to pay to dispose of certain items at the Dunn County collection station.
Annie Schieber, village trustee, wondered about a one-day clean-up in which the village provided a Dumpster.
“It’s very costly,” Niggemann said, noting that she doubted even two Dumpsters would be enough.
Dunn County generally receives a grant for a once-a-year clean-up, but Niggemann said she did not know if the county had received a grant this year.
“There’s tires, batteries, everything,” commented Rand Bates, director of public works.
Since the village board is being particular about yards, the village board should offer something to help, Schieber said.
Even a one-day clean up every other year would be helpful, she said.
Schieber also pointed out that for some people, if they do not know someone with a pickup truck or a trailer, hauling away bulky items like mattresses can be a problem simply for the logistics of disposal.
The village has gained some momentum with the clean up of the Eugene Ziebell property, said Mark Halpin, village trustee.
Some village residents have had the same junk for years and have had ample opportunity to dispose of it, he said.
The village has not reminded them that they need to haul away the junk, so they keep adding to it, Halpin said.
Niggemann suggested sending out a letter to all village residents reminding them about cleaning up their yards and reminding them about the village’s “unsightly yard” ordinance.
The ordinance states that people have 30 days from the time of notification to remove the items, said Police Chief William Anderson.
The problem is, however, that some places have a few items, and some places have “a mountain,” he said.
“Where does it start? Where does it end?” Police Chief Anderson asked, noting that the village would need to hire someone full-time through the summer just to deal with the junk and garbage that has accumulated at some properties around town.
The village’s ordinance does not contain any parameters for determining what items are considered junk or how many of those items need to accumulate before they are considered junk, garbage, a health hazard or unsightly.
According to the village’s ordinance under Section 8-1-8, “whenever the Building Inspector, Fire Inspector, or other authorized Village official shall, upon inspection of any premises within the Village of Colfax, find that there is deposited, placed, stored, or remaining on said premises any garbage, junk, rubbish, rubble, trash, abandoned, outmoded or non-salable merchandise or parts, accumulation of grease or food wastes in a grease trap or other place or depository which presents a risk of clogging or blocking a sewer system, or any other unhealthy, hazardous or unsightly materials or thing which create a fire or health hazard, or which is detrimental to the appearance, neatness and cleanliness of the immediate neighborhood of the Village of Colfax in general, such official shall issue a written order to the owner and/or occupant of the premises to remove said garbage, junk, rubbish, rubble or trash, abandoned, outmoded, or non-salable merchandise …”
Village Trustee Schieber said she agreed with the police chief.
“Where do you stop? What about snowmobiles on trailers?” she asked.
Is someone going to come back to the village and say, “I had to remove this but he did not?” Schieber said.
Bates said he has had several people say to him, “Who is going to tell someone who pays taxes how they are going to park a trailer on their own property?”
Police Chief Anderson said he did not have a problem with going around to the different properties to talk to the property owners but that right now, it is “not on the top of my list.”
Perhaps the village could work on finding some volunteers to help haul items away, Niggemann suggested.
Beverly Schauer, village trustee, said that in her opinion, sending out letters with the water bills sounded like a good place to start.
Send a courtesy letter as a friendly reminder to village residents that also lists the Colfax Village Board contacts, Police Chief Anderson said.
The letter could be posted around town, too, Halpin said.
Village board members agreed that the village should publish an ad in the newspaper about spring clean up, should send letters with the water bills, and should update the village’s website with a fee schedule and a link to Dunn County’s solid waste website.
In reference to the new housing development for which the village board approved a zoning change, Schauer said people coming to Colfax prior to a general clean-up will think, “You’re advertising lots but your town looks a fright.”