Recent confrontations between local residents sparked Tama Police Chief Dan Wilkens to recommend a burning ban at Monday's city council meeting.
It's not a new topic for the City of Tama and no decision was made Monday. The city council and mayor backed Wilkens, but they'd like to hear from Tama residents before making any decision on the issue.
"I think we need to get something out there to people," Mayor Dan Zimmerman said. "We can give them a couple months to come to our meetings and voice their opinions. That will give them a lot of time to speak the opinions."
Councilmembers Steve Baier, Kenny McAdoo and Crystal Kaufman all agreed the burning ordinance should be looked at and possibly changed.
"It's something that seriously needs looked into," Baier said. "If we could adopt something before this fall. I think we should get something set up for at least the fall or the spring of 2013. If we start it in the spring of 2013, they're going to have all winter to know about it."
The City of Tama currently allows for residents to burn yard waste, but not trash, according to Wilkens. He said some residents are burning trash. However, the main issue is common sense about when to burn and disagreeing neighbors, Wilkens said.
"We've had disputes between neighbors," Wilkens said. "Our current ordinance allows people to burn yard waste, but people's definition of yard waste changes. I've made some calls to other cities and some of you on the council know this isn't the first time this has come up. I would really like to entertain the thought of a total burn ban in the city of Tama.
"Some people have legitimate complaints," he said. "They were burning yard waste. Yes, the grass was brown, because it's not been wet this year, but yet it was still wet and stinky. It's not against the law to burn yard waste. If they burn trash, we charge them, call the fire department and have them put it out. Yard waste is allowed."
Wilkens brought the item to the council meeting Monday. He explained the reasoning for his recommendation.
"There's no common sense or courtesy anymore," Wilkens said. "If a neighbor had clothes on the line, a neighbor used to have common sense not to start a fire. That doesn't exist anymore with a lot of people. Good-neighbor clauses are out the window.
"I'm just asking for some help," he said. "We're getting caught in the middle of a mess. Two neighbors were at each others throat for a second time. This time a 2012 car was parked 15 yards from the burn pile. I can't arrest them. It's not against the law."
Wilkens and the city council briefly discussed options. One was a total burn ban. Wilkens said he talked to other cities and some allow "recreational burning" for fire pits, while another only allows residents a short, designated time to burn during late September and October. The city council also threw out the idea of regulating the size of fires or fire pits if it was to only allow "recreational burning."
"No offense here, but don't regulate it to death," Wilkens said. "I have no problem enforcing what we have on the books. I don't want to take a tape measure out and measure a fire. Put a burning ban in. No burning allowed. Don't over regulate it, because you have people out there that have to enforce it.We're getting more and more calls and it's getting harder to enforce. We will do whatever you guys ask."
The city council would like to hear from residents on both sides of the issue. The next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. July 2.
"I haven't talked to Dan about this, but I guarantee you that you will have more calls thanking you for banning burning," said John Lloyd, Tama public works director. "You will have some calls at first complaining, but you will have more calls happy about the ban in the long run."