ROCK FALLS – Residents have retained the right to burn yard waste in the city for a while longer, but the long battle on the issue appears far from over.
Despite having strong support from Mayor Bill Wescott, an ordinance to ban the burning of leaves and other yard waste was shot down, 4-3, at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Some residents who spoke prior to the vote were about as evenly split on the issue as the council.
"I definitely want this burning ban because I have health problems, and my husband and a neighbor we care for have respiratory problems," Renee Henry told the council. "We can't even enjoy the nice weather because we need to close the windows whenever people are burning."
Another resident said not everyone should be punished because of those who don't follow the rules.
"I'm against the burning ban, but I'd like to see the ordinance already on the books enforced," Sharon Simester said. "Give people a chance to adhere to the ordinance."
Third Ward Alderman Jim Schuneman led the charge against the ban, saying he didn't understand the sense of urgency. He thought the burning ordinances were needlessly rushed through the ordinance committee.
"I object to the process – the committee should have [had more time] to review these ordinances before they went to council," Schuneman said.
In addition to the burning ban, there was a second ordinance that tightened up language on recreational burning from fire pits and other enclosed spaces. That also failed 4-3.
Schuneman also argued that a burning ban went against the wishes of a majority of residents who had answered surveys on the issue several years ago. The haste in getting the ordinances to the council turned out to be counterproductive, he said.
"In the future, I hope we don't make a habit of skipping part of the process unless we have an emergency situation," Schuneman said. "I feel like we missed an opportunity to strike a compromise on this."
The mayor clearly was disappointed by the result, as were the council members who voted for the ban. Second Ward Alderman Brian Snow, who has respiratory issues, made it clear that he plans to continue to fight for the ban.
"I recommend we send the burning ordinances back to the committee for more work," Snow said. "This is an important quality-of-life issue, and I've had a lot of calls from people who supported the ban."
In its last contract, the city negotiated free yard waste pickup with its garbage hauler, Moring Disposal, hoping it would encourage more people to bag rather than burn.
The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. May 2 at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St.
The agendas will be posted at rockfalls61071.net and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.
The council meeting also airs live on Channel 5.
HOW THEY VOTED
For the ban: George Logan Jr., Brian Snow, Daehle Reitzel
Against the ban: Jim Schuneman, Lee Folsom, Rod Kleckler, Glen Kuhlemier