BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A Lee County resident has had it with cleaning up the ditches near the county landfill and asked officials Tuesday morning to send a message that enough is enough.
Steve Koellner spoke to Lee County Supervisors during a workshop after Tuesday’s regular meeting asking why fines and citations aren’t being issued to landfill users who aren’t tarping their loads.
Koellner initially read a prepared statement to the supervisors.
“I have spoken with Fort Madison City Manager David Varley and Public Works Director Larry Driscoll, who both said this is the responsibility of the county,” Koellner said. To give everyone here an example, in spring of 2016 I personally picked up trash from the bottom of the 15th Street Hill to the bypass. It took me six weeks and I picked up 65 bags of trash, these are the orange 55 gallon bags. In addition to that, I picked up two pickup loads that wouldn’t fit in a bag namely plywood, lumber, tires, large pieces of cardboard etc.”
He said then in 2017 he contacted Holy Trinity Catholic High school to get students to help pick up the road from Airport Road to the bypass and more than 40 bags were collected.
“This is the most highly traveled road coming into Fort Madison from the bypass. This litter presents a negative image for not only Fort Madison, but Lee County and the State of Iowa. It’s sending the wrong signal to first time visitors, tourists, rodeo visitors, etc. In addition this eye sore is doing nothing for economic development. I truly believe that first time visitors will never return when they see this.”
Currently, motorists hauling trash face a fine up to $100 for running unsecured loads through town to the Great River Regional Waste Authority landfill, across from Rodeo Park on 303rd Avenue. Landfill staff can also assess a $10 penalty for any untarped loads on the property.
“There is a $100 fine for untarped loads and signs are posted both north and south of the landfill entrance. I’ve personally never seen police or sheriff have anyone pulled over for an untarped load,” Koellner said. “Why this isn’t happening, I’ve never found an answer for.”
“I don’t believe it’s only the responsibility of the county and the city and the landfill, but its ungodly the responsibility of the people bringing in these loads,” Chairman Don Hunold said.
“I guess I’m a little objective to even doing a press release. I wouldn’t warn them we’re coming again,” Hunold said. “As far as I’m concerned I wouldn’t say a word, you drive in there – you oughta know the rules.”
Wade Hamm, GRWWA director said inmates recently picked up 120 bags of trash along 15th Street. He said Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph, who’s also chairman of the landfill board, told him the city is currently trying to secure some inmate help from Mt. Pleasant. Hamm said the landfill has decided to pick up trash along the roadway once a week, but if the city is able to get some inmate help, they will alternate weeks.
“We talked at our meeting last Friday and he said the city is the process of getting a group of inmates and we’re going to police that road once a week, weather permitting, from 15th Street to the bypass. We’ve purchased a litter vac that we can tow behind the truck and we’re going to do our best to keep it cleaned up,” Hamm said.
Hamm said landfill staff has actually seen motorists pull up to the mailbox on the highway stop and put a tarp on their loads.
“We can’t police the highway, but once they’re on the property we can.”
Fort Madison Partners Executive Director Tim Gobble asked Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber if they could put a deputy in the area on Saturdays.
Weber said deputies have been patrolling the area, but he said most citations are for speeding.
“I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever seeing a load that’s not tarped. But if it’s not mounded up in the back of the truck I don’t see it.”
Weber said that he will put deputies out there on Saturday more frequently to watch for violations. The sheriff’s department issued a release last year about the issue.
“We put out a notice that we were going to start citing people. You’ll see a deputy out there Saturday,” Weber said. “I’m putting it out there again, you’re gonna get a ticket if your load isn’t tarped. So don’t whine…pay the fine.”
Koellner said he’s out picking up trash regularly and always sees trucks going by with unsecured loads.
“If you were to put a deputy out there for just a couple hours, I guarantee you’ll find somebody. I pick up trash on 15th Street hill and every time I do it I see one or two trucks going there without a tarp and that’s without a doubt. We know the problem, we need to find the solution and the solution is to fine people,” Koellner said.
Hunold also asked that residents who see untarped loads take down a license number.
“We may not be able to give you a ticket, but we can give you a call and have a conversation with you.”
Supervisor Gary Folluo said the county ordinance is that it should be secured so as to keep debris from blowing onto the roadways.
“That’s the key word, it has to be secured and if not then they can be fined,” Folluo said.