Viroqua residents who don’t want the city to spray pesticides to kill weeds in the cracks of city streets by their properties will need to pull them. If the weeds are not pulled then the city will spray them using a low-pressure hand sprayer, City Council members decided at a meeting, Tuesday, June 13.

Alderman Steve Bekkedal said he proposed if residents did not want spray to be used on the street in front of their homes to pull weeds “on an ongoing basis.”

“We would spray only the street itself,” Bekkedal said. “If a mechanical devise is used, you cut the top of the weed off and it will mostly grow back and move the aggregate, which widens the crack.”

Alderman Terry Noble asked if there could be a window where residents would be notified when the city would spray.

“If people don’t want spraying to take place, do it (pull weeds) now when they are small; it has to be ongoing,” Bekkedal said.

Alderwoman Cyndy Hubbard asked if volunteers could be used as an alternative to spraying. (During the the first period for public comment, Vicki Ramsey said 65 people are willing to weed by hand. At a May 16 meeting, a speaker mentioned that at that time, 29 individuals had expressed interest in pulling weeds as part of the Volunteer Weed Brigade.)

“Spraying is not that accurate; it’s subjective,” Hubbard said. “You have 60-some people (willing to pull weeds).”

“We’ve gone two years without spraying,” Bekkedal said. “Some weeds got so long the street sweeper couldn’t clean (the street). With a mechanical device you are making cracks bigger.”

Hubbard said spaying chemicals get into the water and the air. “Are cracks more important? We need to think of the big picture and the environment.”

Alderman Mike Bankes said it was important “to coach employees to use the wand properly... and to target weeds better.”

“They are not dropping a boom and spraying indiscriminately,” Bekkedal said.

“Just because it’s a small amount of spray doesn’t mean it’s OK,” Alderman Mike Koppa said. “I don’t think we should be spraying. Two years is not long enough without enough help. It isn’t a fair test. Maybe there is a new mechanical way.”

Bankes said they should go back to spraying.

“If there’s nothing to spray, they won’t spray,” Bekkedal said.

Koppa said he wants a few more years without spraying.

“If we vote in favor to spray after two years I’m going to be embarrassed,” he said.

Alderman Jeff Gohlke suggested the possibility of testing spray versus not spraying by selecting certain streets where weeds are pulled and other streets where the weeds are sprayed. “Compare what happens... to see if it’s successful.”

After more discussion, Bekkedal made the motion to have the city continue to spray weeds using a low-pressure hand sprayer in the street cracks only if there are weeds; no boulevards or sidewalks would be sprayed. The vote was 5-3, with Hubbard, Noble and Koppa voting no; Sondra Naxi was absent.

In other business

Council members approved Bethel Home and Services’ conditional use application for 620 Garfield Ave. for 14 additional units to be added to Bethel Oaks, the memory care residential facility built in 2015. The motion passed unanimously by roll-call vote.

Debbie Tewalt, interim CEO at Bethel Home and Services, said when Bethel Oaks was built, they knew there would be a growing population that would need memory care for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “Two years ago was the first phase,” Tewalt said. “There’s turnover, but there is a waiting list. There are eight or 10 on a waiting list for that specific care.” Tewalt said the addition will connect with the original building. She also said that during the first phase, Bethel Home and Services built a drainage system and retention pond so runoff drains slowly, and sewer and wastewater removal is in place to accommodate phase two.

The council approved a pavement painting contract with Fahrner as recommended by the Public Works Committee. Sarah Grainger, city engineer and Public Works director, said Fahrner painted the lines on Main Street when the weather was getting colder, which caused paint wear. The city will pay $6,331. “They warranty 50 percent of the work...,” Grainger said.

Voted to accept a land donation at Court Street Park by David Guetzke as recommended by the Park and Rec Committee. The land is located just north of the park. It will come before City Council as a resolution, which will include a legal description.

Voted to amended a zoning ordinance for conditional uses in an R2 district “501(c)3” before “charitable organization” to clarify what is considered a charitable organization. As a conditional use, a restaurant or cafe on non-residential property run by a charitable organization, is limited to operating Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Residential areas need to be protected as a residential area,” Bekkedal said. “I don’t agree with the amendment.”

The council then voted 5-3 in a roll-call vote to accept the the second reading. Bekkedal, Bankes and John Thompson voted no.

Council members voted to keep the following off the noxious weeds list: nettles, burdock, velvet leaf and turf grass. City Attorney Stephanie Hopkins will add the scientific names to the ordinance.

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Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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