Paxton officials considering banning recreational fires

PAXTON — At least two Paxton officials would like to see all burning banned in the city, including recreational fires.

The city council’s public safety committee met Thursday with just two of its four members present to discuss the proposed ban. The committee members present — Chairman Mike Wilson and Bill Wylie — made no official recommendation to the full council on how to proceed.

The council is expected to discuss the proposal further during its July 10 meeting.

During Thursday’s meeting, Wilson unveiled a proposal that would ban all burning in the city except for recreational fires using seasoned wood, and fires for grilling.

However, Wylie noted that the issue has been repeatedly discussed over the past 12 years and that he would like to either allow burning or ban it outright. Mayor Bill Ingold said he tended to agree with Wylie.

The existing burning ordinance restricts residents from burning trash, but the burning of tree limbs and leaves is permitted.

Two residents spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, especially banning the burning of leaves.

Dustin Franckey is a Paxton-Buckley-Loda schools track and cross-country coach and father of three. Franckey said his runners need the protection of clean air just like football players need the protection of a helmet.

Sally Ellis is a mother of a runner who trains year-round and also suffers from asthma. Ellis said her daughter carries a “rescue inhaler” and that it is hard to watch her struggle for breath at the end of a fall race when there is leaf smoke in the air.

“I’m passionate about our children’s breathing,” Ellis said.

Another resident, meanwhile, asked the committee not to ban leaf burning completely, asking instead for permission to burn leaves three weekends in the fall. She said she composts the majority of her leaves but would like the option to burn some of them. She said she thought the illegal burning of garbage was a bigger problem than the burning of leaves

However, both Wilson and Ingold said they see leaf burning as a big problem. Wilson said that in the several years he has been on the council, he fields more complaints about leaf burning than anything else. Wilson said he figures that maybe only 10 percent of the city’s residents burn leaves.

“If 90 percent have found an alternative (to burning leaves), then I don’t think the city has to necessarily provide another answer,” Wilson said.

Ingold said he has priced towable leaf vacuums that start at $65,000. Alderman Rob Pacey, however, said it would be hypocritical for the city to vacuum up the leaves just to haul them out to the city’s burn pile and then burn them there.

City workers routinely burn brush on the far-south edge of town. That has been necessary as the city deals with the large number of ash trees that have had to be taken down because of damage caused by the emerald ash borer. Ingold said there are at least 300 more trees on city property that have to be removed.

Police Chief Coy Cornett said residents just need to call the department to report violations of the current burn ban. When a resident will sign a complaint, then the police can issue a notice to appear in court and the matter can proceed to court.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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