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Fired up

Standing room only at open-burn forum

Study group member Sandra Boggemes shares her views on Independence Township’s burn ordinance. Photos by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
September 07, 2011 - After dozens of leaf-burning comments, Aug. 31, Dave Barran picked up on a common theme.

"I think a lot of what we heard tonight was about people not following the ordinance, doing things wrongly and inconsiderately," he said,

Barran is in favor of current open-burn rules.

"If we enforced what we had, I think that would be good," he said

Fire Chief Steve Ronk said the fire department enforces the ordinance, but needs residents' help.

"Don't call us to complain the day after it happened," he said. "Call us while it's going on so we can address it while it's happening."

More than 100 people packed Independence Township Hall to standing give their thoughts and opinions on leaf burning.

"It's good to hear folks out," said Trustee Larry Rosso "We were thinking we were going to have at least 100 folks and we did."

Study group members Delynn Anderson, Sandra Boggemes, Stanley Bojanczyk, Mark Geno, Andrea Hirsch, James Reed, and Dave Stoke listened to presentations by Ronk, Fire Marshall Greg Olrich, DPW Director Linda Richardson, township attorney Steve Joppich, and Smith's Disposal General Manager Archie Munson, as well as questions from the public.

According to ordinance, open burning is allowed by permit only, issued by the fire department, and is allowed eight days each month, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., April 1-Nov. 31; and 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Dec. 1-March 31.

Penalties include $75 for first offense and $150 for second. Further penalties include $300 ticket, court appearance, and reimbursement of fire department costs.

Brandon and Groveland townships allow burning of leaves and brush. However, the City of the Village of Clarkston and Springfield Township don't allow leaves to burned, but brush can be. Orion, Oxford, and Waterford also do not allow leaf burning, but they do allow bonfires.

Resident Keith Clement said Independence Township always allowed burning.

"If you moved here you knew they burned. It's like moving next to a freeway and then you want a fence built because it's too noisy," Clement said. "I don't think Mr. Rosso and the committee should decide this. I think it should go before the general public at the next election and let the general public decide."

However, Joppich said the township board adopts ordinances in the township.

"Putting it on the ballot to my knowledge isn't something that is permitted," he said.

Resident Dan Wheeler said he didn't like leaf burning, but it shouldn't be banned without an alternative.

"Without it, people are going to end up getting rid of their leaves," Wheeler said. "They're going to end up being dumped around the township on any vacant piece of property they can."

One alternative is composting,but the township does not have the facility or land for it, Richardson said.

Alma, a city of 8,000, spends about $40,000 a year on composting, she said.

"It would be very costly for the township to take something on of this magnitude," she said.

Munson said Smith's Disposal said lawn vacuuming equipment, in use in other communities, is too expensive.

"It would probably be about $1.5 million on equipment we can only use two months out of every year," he said. "There is absolutely no way as a private company we could spend that kind of money to provide a lawn vacuuming service."

Munson noted that compost in general "is a losing battle for waste haulers."

"We make no money on it, we have to hire extra people to work eight months out of the year to pick it up," he said. "Our company doesn't charge any extra for it, if you compost. If you put it out we take it and haul it away, but we have to pay tipping fees to get rid of it."

If the township were to ban burning all together, Munson said they would have to get stricter with their limits, as well as increase prices.

Dr. Daniel Maxwell of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Consultants, P.C., sent a letter in support of banning leaf burning. Maxwell said leaf burning affects everyone, not just people with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

"Smoke from burning leaves can be compared to tobacco smoke (another burning leaf) and contains carbon monoxide and hundreds, if not thousands, of other compounds, many of which are associated with cancer," Maxwell said. "Studies have shown that air pollution form leaf fires may exceed the pollution from all other sources of pollution from all other sources of pollution combined."

Resident Kathy Mosakoski has a lung condition but doesn't agree with people wanting to ban leaf burning due to their health.

"I think that is very unfair to everybody," she said.

Resident Carol Thomas agreed.

"I'm like the ladies that have problems with breathing and I have asthma," she said. "We're not in a sterile world where everything is going to be perfect for everybody and we have to remember that."

Boggemes, whose complaint kicked off the poicy review, said she's been a resident for 33 years.

"I deserve to be on this committee just as much as the people who burn because both voices need to be heard on this committee," she said.

The committee will meet again in mid September, and may present a recommendation to the Township Board shortly after.

"We knew we were going to have a lot of different sentiments, a lot of thought, but a lot of emotions were blended in with the thought," Rosso said. "It gives the committee plenty to think about much to consider and we'll go from there."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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