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Complaint goes up in smoke

By Staff | Apr 1, 2012

Mike Enger

Blue Earth businessman Mike Enger had his chance to present his smoke case to the Blue Earth City Council last Monday night at a special meeting for that one purpose.

But, after hearing from Enger and answering his questions, the council did not take any action on his complaint.

Enger had previously filed a nuisance complaint with the city concerning smoke coming from a chimney in a building housing Vossen Auto Body and Sales and several other businesses.

Last month the council had formed a special ‘Smoke’ Committee to look into the matter.

Enger and Paul Vossen of Vossen Auto Body and Sales were both invited to attend the meeting, but Enger says he never received the notice.

At their last regular meeting the council agreed to hold this special meeting to give Enger a chance to present his case.

Enger, whose business and residence is in a building just north of the Vossen business, had a series of questions for the council.

“I cannot understand how I was not contacted for that committee meeting,” he says. “You sure made sure the Vossens were here tonight.”

Mayor Rob Hammond says a letter was sent to Enger, informing him of the committeemeeting.

“How can that meeting have gone on without trying to contact me?” he asked. “I was only a phone call and two seconds away.”

Enger says since he was the one bringing the complaint forward, he should have been at the meeting, and suggested it should not have been held without his presence.

He also questioned the ruling from the committee and the council’s acceptance of the minutes of that meeting.

“I needed to have been given an opportunity to explain my side of the issue,” Enger says.

Hammond responded that this special meeting was his opportunity.

Enger answered that a recent letter from the city attorney indicated the issue was settled.

City Attorney David Frundt says a public nuisance complaint needs to come from two or more citizens, not just one.

He also repeated a timeline of ordinances which concerned wood-burning furnaces.

The latest ordinance had been rewritten in 2007 and restrictions on wood burning appliances were no longer in force, due to state rulings.

“Why did this not come out earlier,” Enger questioned. “Why has it come out in different doses? These different pieces of information have put me in circles as to what my options are.”

Enger also disputed whether any of the corrections cited by the committee will actually happen.

“I have been burning wood myself for 16 years, so I am not a novice when it comes to wood burning,” he tells the council. “The black smoke that has come out of that chimney at times was not due just to burning wood.”

Enger did agree the wood-burning season is over and he will wait and see if the plans by the Vossens will make a difference in the amount of smoke next winter.

“We do plan on putting two hanging gas heaters in so that we can cut down on wood use,” Vossen reported to the council. “And I can assure you that nothing but wood has gone into the wood furnace.”

He adds that it cost between $4,000 and $5,000 per month to heat the building with the old gas furnace, and that is why he uses the wood furnace.

The council did not take any formal action at the meeting.

Enger says he will continue to monitor the situation and “do what I have to do.”

“No one wants to be engulfed in black smoke inside their home and office,” he says. “And I shouldn’t have to put up with it.”