Grandstand burn likely offPublished 10:40am Wednesday, November 7, 2012
A plan to burn down the condemned grandstand of the Mower County Fairgrounds is going up in flames.
Public Works Director Mike Hanson informed the county board Tuesday that the Austin Fire Department likely will not be able to demolish the grandstand in a controlled burn. An environmental assessment revealed lead paint and asbestos throughout the structure.
“I am 95 percent certain that you will not be able to burn the structure,” Hanson said during the county board meeting.
Transite, an asbestos-based product used in the past to slow fire in ceilings, was found in the structure, but Hanson said most of the asbestos will have to be removed separately before demolition. But there is a significant amount of lead paint, which will likely stymie a controlled burn.
The county, however, is still waiting on the final report from the environmental assessor.
If a controlled burn is not an option, the county would demolish the building through a traditional demolition. The county is also looking to salvage some of the materials in the hopes of recouping a portion of the costs.
The county is already discussing a new structure to replace the grandstand.
SWCD leaders ask county
to reconsider funding freeze
Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District leaders want the county board to re-think its investment in the environment.
All the SWCD’s board of supervisors, many SWCD employees and some local farmers came to the county board meeting to urge commissioners to allocate more money in 2013 to help the SWCD seek more grants.
The SWCD requested about $160,000 in 2013, but the county board recommended to freeze funds to all outside agencies, since the county is facing a potential 11.53 percent levy increase.
With the freeze, the county board would give $133,000 to the SWCD, but the supervisors are now requesting $153,000, according to SWCD Supervisor Jon Erichson. He added the SWCD originally asked for about $163,000.
Erichson said the SWCD has become less dependent on the county’s funds. County dollars used to account for more than 40 percent of the SWCD’s budget, but now make up about 20 percent.
But Erichson and others still see the need for more funds. SWCD Chair Jim Gebhardt said the investment is worth it for the county board, because the SWCD brings back much more money in grants the county. He said they brought $1.5 million in state and federal funds into the county in 2011.
“It benefits everybody in Mower County, let’s face it,” he said. “We’re talking water quality, flood control, things like that.”
In 2009, the county contributed about $152,000 to the SWCD, so Erichson said the county has already reduced its funding.
Gebhardt and Erichson said the extra money will give the SWCD more resources and staff time to seek grant dollars.
“We’re applying to those grants, but I don’t think we’re applying to the level that we should be,” Erichson said.
Gebhardt said the SWCD has already made cuts, but needs to maintain current funding levels.
Commissioners said they will discuss the SWCD’s funding as commissioners discuss the 2013 levy in coming weeks.
“We are all very aware of the good work that the Soil and Water Conservation District does,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said.
A few farmers also spoke in support of the SWCD and the projects it completes in Mower County.
—The county board unanimously approved a request by Michael and Kathrine Harte to convert a house in Red Rock township into a vacation rental property.
—The county board unanimously approved a request from Correctional Services Director Steve King to raffle off one vacation day to employees who donates to the annual United Way campaign. King leads the United Way campaign for the county, and he hopes the possibility of winning an extra vacation day will give employees incentive to donate.