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Afton opts against controlled burn

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If anyone in Afton was looking forward to watching a city-owned property go up in flames, thanks to controlled burn, they might be disappointed.

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During a special meeting on Dec. 12, Afton City Council reconsidered a motion from its November meeting to allow the Lower St. Croix Valley Fire District to use a city-owned property at 633 St. Croix Trail for fire department and SWAT team training exercises. The plan called for the house to be burned down.

The initial proposal stated the city's only responsibility would be to remove asbestos in the house, remove any and all hazardous materials and remove any debris left after the burn.

City Council initially opted for the burn rather than demolition because demolition would cost the city about $12,000, whereas the burn would cost the city up to $6,000.

However, City Council received information from last week's meeting that made it reconsider the decision.

City Administrator Ron Moorse informed City Council that he and City Engineer Diane Hankee have since learned a training burn would require testing for lead-based paint in the house and the removal of any material containing lead-based paint prior to a training burn.

The cost of the testing for lead-based paint would be $1,200 and the cost of removal could be $2,500 or more depending on the extent of materials involved.

"It's unclear how much there may or may not be," Moorse said. "Those numbers might be into the thousands of dollars.

"It's unclear what that would be until we actually go in and do the test."

Highland Sanitation, the city's garbage haulers, also indicated regulations related to the disposal of demolition waste could become more restrictive in 2013, which could make it more difficult and increase the cost.

Additionally, the timeline for the controlled burn was uncertain, especially now given the amount of snow.

However, Public Works Director Ken Johnson said the house could likely be demolished by the end of the year if the city opted for that route.

"Demolition speeds up the time for removal," he said.

City Council Member Bill Palmquist, who was previously a strong supporter of the controlled burn option, said he felt demolition was the now the better option given the new information.

"All those cost savings went away," he said. ""If it's no cheaper, let's just demo it. I don't want it to cost more to burn it."

City Council unanimously voted to demolish the house in lieu of the controlled burn.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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