Sauk Centre is reopening their Yard Waste Compost Facility at the end of First Street North; it was closed for a couple of weekends as contractors and people who were not Sauk Centre residents were using it to dump vegetation, some of which violated the size limits for what could be dumped. Although the site is resuming its regular hours of operation, violators of this vegetation disposal location may find themselves having a brush with the law.

The Sauk Centre City Council agreed to reopen the compost site during their meeting Sept. 15 at Sauk Centre City Hall.

Since  2008, the compost site has been open on weekends and after hours. However, recent storms have resulted in a substantial increase in brush, logs and stumps being dumped at the site, even though some of the logs and stumps exceed the 6-inch maximum diameter required for dumping.

Starting the weekend of Sept. 4, the city reduced the compost site’s hours to 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and closed it on the weekends.

Although the site is meant for city residents only, people from other towns and the surrounding townships have also been dumping there. One major contributor to the problem has been contractors collecting non-Sauk Centre residents’ brush and trees for a fee and then dumping what they collect at the city compost site.

“I may be picking on contractors, but they’re basically the reason we got into this situation,” said Warren Stone, Sauk Centre mayor. “I was out there a couple of times with my own stuff, seeing some of the contractors coming in, and there wasn’t a piece of wood on some of those dump trucks that was smaller than 6 inches (in diameter).”

Large logs and stumps left in the compost site’s brush pile have to be chipped rather than burned, and to do so would represent an additional cost to the city. Councilmember Diane Kelley said she had heard reports that it could cost taxpayers about $25,000.

Additionally, Sauk Centre Public Works director Ben Clink reported that, because of the state’s drought conditions, burning the brush pile will be prohibited until snow is on the ground. Consequently, the brush pile has gotten larger than usual.

The council discussed options for the compost site, including closing the site entirely, keeping the limited hours, hiring additional staff to monitor the site on evenings and weekends, accepting brush and compost from out of town and requiring a fee, billing adjacent communities, adding keycard access and reopening the site with community service ads to publish the rules. They ultimately agreed it would not work to continue running the site under reduced hours; residents had already contacted the city prior to the meeting, saying they could not dump their brush because their work schedules overlapped the site’s hours.

Another factor the council noted was how unique the year’s situation had been and that these conditions might not merit jumping to conclusions on site management.

“We ran into an abnormal situation in which we had two major storms with a lot of tree damage that led to this, and the drought prevented burning,” said councilmember Joe Fuechtmann. “I think there are a lot of things we could look at moving forward: securing the facility to a code or card, a contractor fee to dump, those types of things, but at this time, we’re coming to the end of the season.”

The council came to a general consensus to return the compost site to its normal hours of operation. However, they encouraged the community to report any instances of illegal dumping.

“If I see somebody doing it, I’m not going to hesitate to call the police and have them come down and nail them for illegal dumping, even if I have to take a picture myself,” Stone said. “We reopen this up, and if anybody’s seen down there abusing the system, I want them reported, and I think the community, if they want it bad enough, they’ll do it themselves.”

In other council news:

– SCPW noted in their report that the Sauk Centre Civic Arena has been sustaining damage due to irresponsible renters; one recent event led to thrown rocks, garbage on the parking lot and two broken glass doors, replacements for which have been ordered. The Sauk Centre Police Department has noticed some of the events have had fights, juvenile drinking and local noise complaints. The city may be looking into adjusting the arena’s damage rates and considering other measures to discourage further incidents.

– With the Sauk Centre Municipal Airport’s two T-hangers full, the airport board discussed the potential construction of a box hanger which could be rented out and would fit three airplanes. The council also approved a $120,182.97 bid from Schweiss Door Company and a $2,200 bid from BEAM Electric to replace the cables on one of the T-hangers with straps; the project is funded at 75% by a Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics grant.

– Approved a preliminary 2022 city expense budget of $19,161,192.38 and a preliminary 2022 levy of $2,092,267. These preliminary budgets incorporate a proposed 6% levy increase for 2022, estimated to be $118,430.

– Approved the preliminary and final plat for the South Sauk Centre Industrial Park. Because there is a wetland where a storm pond is going to be installed, the council also approved the purchase of $12,196.80 in wetland credits.

– Approved the advancement of probationary EMT Richard White to EMT-B level one.

– Approved a final assessment of $55,216.35 for the Anjo Drive and East Street project, a decrease from the anticipated $62,196.06 assessment.

– Approved a variance for the property of Roger Majeski on the 1000 block of Getty Street.

– Approved a pay request to Mark Lee Excavating of $149,872.95 for their work on the 2021 street reclamation project.

– Approved the purchase of three copiers – two for the city hall administrative area and one smaller model for the SCPD – from Marco Technologies for $18,129 with a $138.58 per month maintenance plan.

– Approved a 2022 seasonal camping rate of $2,400 for the Sinclair Lewis Campground.

– Approved the execution of closing documents on land acquisition for the future ballfield improvements at Towerview Park

– Approved a 2022 budget of $59,609 for the Big Sauk Lake Association for aquatic vegetation and invasive species management, including $16,800 for curly leaf pondweed treatment, $4,750 for a 2021 weed survey and $38,059 for carp surveying and control. The budget will be included in the Sauk River Watershed District’s budget.

– Approved an exempt permit for the Centre Mat Youth Wrestling Club for a Dec. 30 raffle at Sauk Centre High School.

The next city council meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, at Sauk Centre City Hall.