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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • City Council Discusses Hazardous Situation

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  • Butterfield--During their meeting Tuesday night, the Butterfield City Council debated options for cleaning up a hazardous waste site that's the result of a fire in October. Following an October 14 fire in the city at 205 Sturm Ave., the site was declared hazardous by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Mayor Kenneth Pankratz. The property owner has no insurance and can't pay for the necessary cleanup, which is estimated at nearly $45,000. On November 5, the mayor went before the Watonwan County Board to seek guidance, and he was told--essentially--that the mess is the property owner's problem. Board Chairman Scott Sanders said he empathized with the city's plight, but the county would only help if Butterfield owns the property. “We help municipalities, not individuals.” “We want to help, but we don't want to open a Pandora's Box,” Sanders continued. “We are in a bind here.” The property owner still lives in a house on the site, however, and Pankratz is pessimistic about the chances he would sign the property over to the city. Yet, the M.P.C.A. has already filed a violation order on the property, and they want it cleaned up. Second District Representative Mark Rentz said it may be best to have an outside agency--like the M.P.C.A. or the Department of Public Health--deal with it. “The city can't afford $45,000, that I know,” the mayor said at that time--a point he reiterated during the city council meeting Tuesday night. Pankratz presented the city council with a plethora of options, and--after much discussion--they settled on a two-pronged course of action. One of the council members will ask the property owner whether he's willing to sign over the land to the city; if he does, the city could seek county money for the project. However, Pankratz remained dubious that the city could acquire the property. The second plan is to show the city's financials to the M.P.C.A. and tell them the city simply doesn't have the capital for such a cleanup effort. Then, the city will await a response from the M.P.C.A. before moving forward. The site has been declared a hazard mainly due to the hundreds of old television sets the owner had been storing on the property, Pankratz said. For the rest of the story, please see Thursday's print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.

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