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Wells has issues with odors

By Staff | Jan 19, 2020

Members of the Wells City Council and city staff discuss the Brakebush smell issue at their meeting.

The Wells City Council is hoping the Brakebush processing plant has found a solution to its stink. During their January meeting, the council received an update from Rusty Schreiber, vice president of operations at the plant.

According to city administrator CJ Holl, he spoke with Schreiber who stated there are a number of fixes coming to try and alleviate the odors which Wells citizens have been very aware of.

“When this company came to Wells, this was a concern from the public,” said council member Brenda Weber. “When they came in, they said minimal odor. This is a far cry from minimal. People can smell this from inside stores.”

Holl informed the council a sludge deodorant, new air treatment system, and further odor level tests from another company are some of the hopeful fixes Brakebush has up their sleeve to address the unpleasant smells.

“Are we still going out of our way for these guys?” asked council member Crystal Dulas, who alluded to the split costs between the company and the city to test Brakebush’s water treatment issues from the past.

Last summer, the city’s overflow ponds were crowded with greaseballs due to an issue with Brakebush’s water filtration. The site is now tested once a week, to ensure Brakebush is keeping up with MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) standards. It is up to the MPCA as to when the Brakebush facility can minimize its test frequency.

“Brakebush is taking action as much as they can,” said Holl. “They paid $75,000 for new parts to address their water treatment issues, and paid another $40,000 for pond clean up. Jeff Amy, from our Public Utilities, helped them with that. It’s not like they’re sitting around.”

“Sounds like the cost of doing business to me,” was Dulas’ reply. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate Brakebush having a facility here, but it seems like we keep running into issues. It’s concerning the public, which concerns me.”

Holl stated he would keep the council informed of Brakebush’s progress with their odor control procedures.

Another sore spot for the council was the discussion of the Wellington Estates, located in Wells. A public hearing was held to address the code violations and nuisance issues from the property, which has been empty since the building caught fire in August of 2017. No members of the public were present for the public hearing, but the council did discuss their concerns.

Joe Roberson, property owner of Wellington Estates, was invited to the public hearing to present his perspective on the situation, but did not make any appearance.

“Of course, you saw the pictures and the issues that are out at that property. This building is in poor shape,” stated Holl. “It’s faced its second winter of exposure to the elements and water damage, and when we recently did a walkthrough of the building to document the damage, police executed a search warrant and found dangerous and hazardous chemicals which may have links to drug use in one of the garages of the property.”

The city’s attorney, David Frundt, was present at the public hearing and informed the council of what decisions were ahead of them.

“The remediation of toxic chemicals is the result of whatever may or may not have happened in the garage is not a cheap process, so I would expect that’s not going to help our situation at all, but it needs to be addressed, so that’s why it’s on the resolution,” shared Frundt.

With council action on the resolution ordering the abatement of hazardous building nuisance conditions located at 400 Fourth Avenue Southwest, it has to be personally served on the property owner, Roberson, to start the clock ticking for the 90 day period he has to address the city’s concerns.

“The process involved here is this is your order for him to do something, and if he fails to do that and doesn’t do anything, we have a right to seek a court order that will allow the city to do it,” said Frundt. “That’s the question as to whether or not we want to go that far, but this is the next step in the process. We will see what happens, but we need to address these issues and get the hazards removed.”

Roberson has yet to pay taxes on the property. Forfeiture is scheduled for the property in 2022. The resolution to begin abatement of the property by Roberson was passed by the council.

The Wells City Council also:

Is accepting applications from residents for vacancies on the Park Board and the Planning and Zoning Board. Applications are available on the city’s website or at City Hall. Applications may be dropped off or emailed to cityhall@cityofwells.net.

Designated South Central News as the city’s official newspaper.

Passed resolutions 2020-04 and 2020-05 with regard to class compensation structure and approving a memorandum of agreement between the city of Wells and AFSCME.

Updated the city fee schedule and street department equipment rental pricing.

Discussed the need for a new snow blower. Street Foreman Mike Pyzick stated the city’s 1995 snow blower may be on its last leg. The council also approved the street department purchase of five used programmed radios to communicate easier when plowing snow and doing street work.

Approved Resolution 2020-01, approving Minnesota Gambling Exempt Permit to Ducks Unlimited.

Passed Resolution 2020-02 accepting donations for the Wells Public Library.

Went into closed session to consider offers or counteroffers for the sale of real property owned by the city. No action was taken upon opening the meeting.

Went into another closed session with regard to performance reviews of Chief of Police Tim Brenegan and City Administrator Holl. Both received overall ratings of ‘Exceeds Expectations’ from the council.

The next Wells City Council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27, at 5 p.m.