A neighbor’s outdoor boiler that is fueled by burning wood and possibly other materials has disrupted the lives of a Rolla couple for several months to such an extent that Ken and Margaret Hawley last week asked the Rolla City Council to ban the use of the heating equipment.
Speaking to the council during the public comment period at the end of the council meeting, Margaret Hawley presented the council with a detailed log of smoke incidents, dating back to Oct. 13, 2012, that they have experienced at their home, 1190 S. Rolla St. The log notes the date, time, outside temperature and describes the specific problem.
She also presented letters that had been sent to their neighbors, identified only as Jeff and Michele.
In addition, she presented to the council two other documents, a four-page outdoor wood boiler fact sheet and a three-page guide for health professionals on the public health hazards that arrive from the excessive smoke generated by the outdoor wood boilers.
Kenneth Hawley told the council that manufacturers of outdoor wood-burning furnaces or boilers recommend they be installed 300-500 feet away from other buildings. Moreover, because of land elevation, the smoke stack “is lower than our windows,” Hawley said.
“It is a public health nuisance for us,” he said.
The nuisance incidents are documented in the letters and log presented to the council.
Those letters, and the Hawleys’ public statements, indicate that the problem started long before Oct. 13, 2012, the first date on the log. Margaret Hawley told the council that the noxious smoke began in October 2011.
“At least half the days of the year, we are breathing smoke,” she said. In addition to using the outdoor wood-burning boiler for heating in the winter, the neighbors also apparently use it to heat water for other uses.
The smoke penetrates the walls even when the windows are closed, she said, and it is affecting the Hawleys’ health.
She said the boiler is about 200 feet from their home, far less than specified by manufacturers of such equipment.
One of the letters she presented to the council was dated June 12, 2012. It states: “There is a noxious smoke from the incineration of toxic and other substances which seems to originate from south of us, perhaps your furnace from our observations. The smells have ranged from creosote and petroleum products to paper and trans, and arrive at various hours of day and night and all seasons of the year.”
In that letter to Jeff, the Hawleys state that they overlooked the situation for many months, thinking it would be temporary.
“But, we are beginning to realize it is continuing indefinitely, so we pressed to make our need known,” they wrote. “We have confidence from our knowing your kind and helpful neighborliness during our approximate 3 years as neighbors, that you will take this matter to heart and recognize that we also desire to be responsive to any need you may have of us as well.”
Page 2 of 4 - The Hawleys followed up on May 26, 2013, with a letter and the log. They noted that in a conversation with Jeff, he had indicated that he didn’t think the noxious smoke came from his boiler.
“So on June 21, we surveyed neighbors, seeking the source,” the Hawleys wrote. “June 27 there was a particularly grievous episode as we had drifted off to sleep on a warm summer night and were jolted awake by a noxious smoke filling our lungs and bedroom. We could see dark smoke rising at back of your home, so slipped on robes and knocked at your door at 10:30 p.m.”
The Hawleys describe a half-hour discussion and tour of the outdoor wood furnace and explanation of its operation, given by Jeff.
The letter notes that Jeff ceased use of the equipment from about July 1 until about Oct. 1, 2012, “which allowed us the ordinary comfort of fresh air inside and outside of our home. Thank you!”
The use of the boiler resumed in October, and that’s when the Hawleys began keeping the detailed log, which they sent to Jeff and also submitted to the council.
The May letter describes steps the Hawleys have taken to minimize the infiltration of the smoke into their home and makes suggestions for the owner of the outdoor burner, such as adding a scrubber or at least a taller smoke stack.
The neighbors have not taken any steps to solve the problem, the Hawleys said, so they appealed to the council to take action.
No current provisions in the city code address the use of outdoor wood-burning boilers, which are growing in number and use.
In other business or discussion:
• The council renewed a lease with the Rolla Lions Club for the Regional Fire Training Facility at a cost of $1,500. The vote to authorize the mayor to sign the lease was unanimous.
Owing to an oversight, the lease expired in 2012 and had not been renewed. The new lease is dated June 1 and requires the $1,500 rent payment to be paid no later than Jan. 15 of each year.
That $1,500 will cover the cost of sewer use, which had not been billed, so the money going from the city to the Lions Club will return to the city.
• The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Bill Jenks to sign a bill of sale to convey the 1989 Pierce 50-foot Tele-Squirt fire truck to the St. James Fire Protection District.
On June 3, the council unanimously voted to sell the truck to the St. James department, which had offered $21,500 for the vehicle.
• The council heard first reading of an ordinance to revise Chapter 14 of the Rolla City Code.
Page 3 of 4 - Much of the city code regarding fire protection was outdated, not reflecting new technologies, so Fire Chief Robert Williams presented an update.
No vote was taken. Final reading will be heard and a vote will be taken at the next meeting.
• The council unanimously approved a resolution assigning the Rolla City Hall lease-financing instrument from Bank of America to First State Community Bank of Farmington.
“We’re happy to have it reassigned,” City Administrator John Butz said, noting that the city had attempted to deal with Bank of America to refinance the city hall lease. Bank of America did not want to do so. “We were frustrated by that process,” Butz said.
The city officials hope that First State Community Bank, being a Missouri bank, and the new area bank president, Ernie Kost, a long-time local resident, will be more willing to work with the city.
• First Community National Bank unanimously won the bank depository bid with a fixed rate of 0.50 percent.
“Banking services will be provided to the City of Rolla with no fees,” Stefannie D. Rogers, city finance director, said. “The accounts will renew beginning July 1 and will remain with First Community National Bank for a term of four years to expire in 2017.”
• One bid for $19,495 for a Linelazer IV 250 SPS paint striper was received from Sherwin Williams, Rolla, and the council unanimously approved it.
• Rainey and Son Construction LLC, Newburg, was the low bidder, $99,111.25, for improvements to Maplewood and Cottonwood drives.
The council approved, though not unanimously, a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with the company.
Councilman Don Morris objected to accepting the bid, citing the company’s Newburg address, which is outside the city limits of Rolla, and noting the next lowest bid was from a company with a Rolla address.
• The council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute a contract with Irvinbilt Constructors Inc. for Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant disinfection and clarifier improvements.
The council had accepted the bid at the last meeting; this vote authorized the contract. Morris opposed the acceptance of the bid and the authorizing of the contract, citing the company’s Chillicothe address and noting the next lowest bid was from a company with a Rolla address.
• The council reappointed Morris and Doug Cresswell to the Rolla Enhanced Enterprise Zone. They’ll serve until June 2018.
• Councilman Tony Bahr noted an unsightly canopy on the Null Building in the 600 block of Pine Street and asked that the owner be contacted.
• Councilman J.D. Williams described an incident involving some “rough characters” that occurred behind the old Toyota building on Highway 72.
Page 4 of 4 - • Williams also said there is a problem with landlords not mowing their properties after students move out. He said he wants to lower the tolerance level to 8 inches before citing the owners and forcing the mowing of the property.
• Morris asked who is responsible for mowing the grass up to the curb on Rolla Street between Christy and Victoria streets. Butz said mowing and snow removal are the responsible of the nearest property owner, even on city right-of-way, according to the city code.
• Bob Stewart, an anti-fluoridation activist, asked the council to remove fluorine from the city water supply.
• A closed meeting to discuss unspecified court action was held after the open meeting.