Trustees on the Village of Windsor Board favor a ban on open burning in residential areas.
However, it’s expected that an open house will be held to gather citizen input on the matter, and Village President Bob Wipperfurth also cautioned that if a ban is approved, it might be a while before it takes effect.
“The burn dates will be in effect this fall and spring,” said Wipperfurth. “It’ll take some time to roll it out.”
Open burning was discussed Thursday night during the regular village board meeting. Trustees are focused on fires intended to get rid of leaves and yard waste.
Options for helping residents remove such material from their property are being considered. One idea involves the purchase of a leaf-vac truck, which the Village of DeForest has also discussed. Such a vehicle would pick up leaves at curbs and transport them to the municipality’s recycling center.
Director of Public Works Director Davis Clark estimated that such a truck would cost somewhere around $225,000 to $250,000.
Agricultural areas of the village would be exempt, although those wanting to conduct open burnings would still need a permit.
Wipperfurth wanted to ask a fundamental question of board members: do you want to restrict open burning in residential areas?
“The time has come to discontinue our burning options,” said Trustee Bruce Stravinski, who also advised that the village take responsibility for dealing with the leaves.
Wipperfurth concurred, explaining that a number of years ago, urban areas began restricting open burning to certain days in the spring and fall. He said the village’s current policy was a compromise, stemming from past discussions at a community open house years ago. Wipperfurth said opinions at that meeting were split down the middle. The situation is different now.
“We know more about the effects of smoke,” said Wipperfurth.
The biggest problem is the burning of wet leaves, according to Wipperfurth. It creates a heavy smoke that lingers, he said.
“That’s what I get the most complaints about,” said Trustee Monica Smith.
Trustee Don Madelung said the ban was a tough call, although he indicated he was inclined to go along with a ban if the village offered more options to assist its citizens in getting rid of their leaves.
Asked her opinion, Smith said she favored a ban, saying that she is asthmatic, which makes it hard to deal with the smoke. She also said she doesn’t mind recreational fires, but when it comes to leaves and yard waste, it is material that accumulates all year and the fires used to eliminate it all are huge.
Smith also said that since she’s been on the board she’s had residents asking why the village doesn’t have leaf pick-up and why Windsor’s recycling center isn’t used more as a site for disposing of yard waste. She hoped the village could find ways to support residents in removing such material.
Trustee Brad Mueller was not at Thursday’s meeting.
Dane County Supervisors Maureen McCarville and Julie Schwellenbach were at the meeting to give an update on various county issues. Noting that open burning was going to be debated by the board, Stravinski asked why Dane County closed most of its leaf-collecting sites. In light of the millions of dollars spent on cleaning up area waters, Stravinski said climate change and preventing air pollution were just as important. Schwellenbach said she just found out that the Dane County Landfill is no longer taking compostable material and agreed it would be better if such sites were available. However, she also said one of the reasons why such places were shuttered was to prevent the spread of disease, as they were full of insects and pests.
McCarville said it was a “no-brainer” that picking up leaves and their removal was important to keeping them out of area waters and halting phosphorus build-up.
Madelung also wondered how the village would enforce such a ban.
Wipperfurth posed another query: is it government’s responsibility to handle the leaves?
“That’ll be a hard question to answer and find solutions to,” said Wipperfurth.
Clark said he talked to nine different municipalities about how they dealt with the issue. “Answers were all over the map,” said Clark.
Clark said a leaf-vac truck could be used for leaves during fall leaf pick-up, and then out of season, the leaf-vac could be removed and the truck could be used for things like hauling gravel or snow removal. The vehicle transformation is very simple, said Clark. He also said that 80 percent of the work of the leaf-vac truck could be done by one operator, although another person might be needed for deep ditches.
“It’s not a six-week vehicle,” said Clark, referring to the usual time span for leaf pick-up for communities like Windsor.
There are some things to be careful of with leaf-vac trucks. Some leaf piles contain items, such as pumpkins or squash, that could be problematic, as would stones and plastic bottles.
Another benefit of having a leaf-vac truck would be to limit the amount of phosphorus going into area rivers and lakes, although Clerk Chrsitine Capstran mentioned how the Town of Dunn bought a trailer vac, and officials there thought it didn’t do anything to reduce phosphorus levels in area waters. Capstran explained that there’s a “teabag effect,” where rain goes through leaves and carries phosphorus into those waters. With the six-week time frame to pick up leaves, the Town of Dunn only conducted leaf pick-ups twice. That wasn’t enough, said Capstran. If pick-up is done every week, it could have a greater effect on phosphorus levels, she said.
Smith also said that not all residents would want the village picking up their leaves and yard waste, as many contract out their yard work, including such removal.