Board sides with landowners on fight over asbestos disposal

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012

After an hour of discussion and arguments that peaked with one property owner walking out during a public hearing, the county board denied a request by Veit Disposal Systems to start accepting and storing two kinds of friable asbestos.

The board voted 3-1 to deny the request, with commissioners Tim Gabrielson, Tony Bennett and Jerry Reinartz voting “yea” to deny, and Commissioner Ray Tucker voting not to deny. Commissioner Mike Ankeny was not at the meeting.

The board largely based its decision on incremental increases of noise, dust and vibrations from the additional materials, which the board said would cause adverse affect on neighboring landowners.

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Veit had asked the county board and planning commission to amend its conditional use permit to allow types of friable asbestos — a dangerous material if it becomes airborne and is inhaled — at its VONCO IV Demolition Debris Disposal Facility, 24477 U.S. Highway 218 north of Austin. The business already accepts non-friable asbestos.On April 3, Veit officials and neighboring property owners Bill and Bonnie Rhyther argued the additional friable asbestos would be detrimental to their health and the value of their land.

Bonnie compared it to signing a death warrant for she and her husband, noting it would only take one molecule of friable asbestos to adversely affect their health.

“I want you to know that if your decision is yes, you’re kind of signing my husband and I’s — more or less — death warrants,” she said.

After researching and reading a book about incidents with friable Asbestos, Bonnie said she was willing to keep fighting through things like

“I hope you think about this, because I’m not going to stop here,” she said.

Veit maintained that the process would be safe. In fact, another landfill is currently accepting friable asbestos a few miles from Veit.

Had the board approved the change, the friable asbestos would have been shipped in already sealed plastic bags before it would be buried under 12 inches of dirt. Work on the friable asbestos would have to stop when wind speeds exceeded 10 mph

Reinartz, who works in appraisals, said the friable asbestos could reduce the home’s property value.

“It does diminish and impair property values,” Reinartz said.

The hearing was often tense, with the Rhythers and Veit attorney Jack Perry squabbling back and forth on multiple occasions.

At one point, County Attorney Kristen Nelsen attempted to stop the arguments, and told Bonnie to stop arguing or leave. Bonnie chose to leave.

Though Veit’s request was denied, this likely isn’t the end of the story. Veit’s attorney said he will likely appeal the decision.

Board hears update on regional dispatch

Human Services isn’t not be the only county department looking into the benefits of implementing a regionalized model.

The county board heard an update on regional dispatch Tuesday from consultant Andy Terry. More than 10 counties are discussing the potential of joining forces and implementing a joint dispatch model.

If the counties were to move forward on regional dispatch, the counties would likely join forces in two or three regional dispatch centers.

However, Terry said Mower is one of the counties that would have the hardest time shifting to a regional model.

The dispatchers in Mower don’t just handle emergency calls, they have other duties, like manning a service window and working with records.

If counties decide to move forward, regional dispatch is still a long ways off. If counties wanted to move forward and get more information, Terry said they’d next look to venders to get information on potential costs.