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County board says no to recycling law amendments

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Journal
715-425-5666 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A St. Croix County recycling law amendment stalled March 16 after supervisors suggested it might violate residents' privacy and others questioned the definition of wood that can be burned.

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The county's recycling law applies to 26 of its municipalities, mostly rural areas that don't have their own recycling ordinances.

The ordinance adopted in 1994 is a "bare bones model," said Planning and Zoning Director Dave Fodroczi. In 1998 the county received a grant to upgrade its recycling component.

Supervisor Linda Luckey, town of St. Joseph, objected to a section in the proposed amendment that would give the Planning and Zoning Department authority to enter homes and other property to inspect for compliance.

Before an inspection, the county representative would have to seek permission from the property owner, and if that permission was denied, get a court order.

Luckey wondered if that would allow an inspector to demand to come into a kitchen, basement or garage.

Fodroczi said the concern is with areas where waste is placed for collection and with health and safety issues.

Still, said Luckey, the section was broadly written. She wondered if it would allow "someone to barge into our houses."

"We're talking about unusual circumstances," said Fodroczi. "I don't see us checking kitchen wastebaskets. We're talking about having to have something much more serious."

The Planning and Zoning Committee was concerned about giving "carte blanche to staff" to just walk into a house without permission or a warrant, said Supervisor Sharon Norton-Bauman, Hudson. She said the draft ordinance requires staff to either get permission or a warrant.

"You lost me at going into someone's house," said Supervisor Dan Raebel, Emerald, who also considered that an invasion of privacy.

A worker would ask for permission to enter a home only if collectors found hazardous or combustible materials mixed with waste put out for collection, said Fodroczi.

The recycling law isn't based on the need to protect health and safety, it's based on state laws intended to minimize use of landfills, responded Corporation Counsel Greg Timmerman. He said there are other laws that deal with health and safety issues.

Luckey's amendment to say that Planning and Zoning Department representatives have no right to enter residential living quarters to inspect trash or recycling was adopted on a 19-9 vote.

But after other supervisors worried that a provision allowing the burning of only "clean, dry wood" would prohibit burning trees and brush cut from farm fence lines, Supervisor Buck Malick, town of Hudson, suggested the ordinance be sent back to committee to develop better definitions.

The board rejected the proposed ordinance on a vote of 15-13.

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Judy Wiff
Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.
(715) 426-1049
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