Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 30, 2003

Compost site: some ruin it for many

By Lynda Jensen

Banana peels, screen doors, window casings and other kinds of garbage left at the Howard Lake city compost site during the past months caused the city council to schedule closing the site July 15, out of frustration.

The site is located west of town on the north side of Highway 12, and has attracted problems for years, commented Tom Goepfert of the public works department.

Because the land there is owned by Glen Mumford, the council was reluctant to pursue ideas about fencing or other remedies.

Aside from this, Goepfert is sure that people will simply leave their garbage beside the fence for others to pick up.

So far, the city has spent $12,100 on maintenance of the compost site since 1997, not including the $100 per month rent for the land, said Clerk Gene Gilbert.

The problems aren't a surprise to many other cities, including Cokato and Montrose; since many local compost sites appear to have the same kinds of problems.

Currently Montrose temporarily closed its compost site due to road construction there.

"We really understand the drastic measures that Howard Lake is taking," commented Cokato Administrator Don Levens. "I empathize with the City of Howard Lake."

Cokato's compost site has attracted a wide range of garbage, commented Ken Bakke of Cokato's public works department.

"Whatever you can imagine," Bakke said.

Currently, Cokato's site is located in town, just off Highway 12 by the Cokato public works garage. It is not fenced.

In the past, Cokato tried to use a manned post with a Green Thumb worker watching over it, Bakke said. This didn't work.

Even though it's the work of a few people, and not the majority, Levens said, cities have very good reasons to be concerned about what is left behind, since they are held accountable by different agencies for waste, in addition to paying the tab, which ends up being everyone's expense.

Montrose normally uses a lock and key system for its compost site, which was fenced off before the construction started. The compost site has been removed since then.

Before then, Montrose residents were required to check in at the city office, obtain a key and sign a statement as to whom will be inside the compost area.

In the past, some people were caught leaving such items as couches behind at the Montrose site, and two were handed over to the sheriff's department, according to Montrose city officials.

Waverly has a dumpster for leaves that is located inside a fenced area at the waste water treatment plant, Clerk Deb Ryks said.

Currently, the City of Waverly has no problems, although the fence is locked at night when office hours are over, she said.

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