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Wood furnaces hot topic at council meeting

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 12:00 pm

A proposed ordinance to regulate the use of outdoor wood furnaces has a lit a fire under some Keokuk citizens.

During Thursday’s Keokuk City Council workshop, a handful of outdoor wood furnace owners expressed skepticism about the proposal, which originated in the Code Revision Subcommittee.

The devices, which also are known as outdoor wood boilers or hydronic heaters, are gaining popularity as people try to cut their energy costs. However, the city is receiving an increased number of complaints about them, according to Fire Chief Gabe Rose and Community Development Director Pam Broomhall.

If city authorities find that an existing outdoor wood furnace is creating a verifiable nuisance, then the furnace’s chimney would have to be modified so it is 15 to 25 feet above ground level, according to the proposal.

Setbacks and chimney heights also are addressed in the proposed five-page ordinance. The setbacks for new outdoor wood furnace models not EPA-qualified would be as follows: At least 50 feet from the property line and at least 100 feet from any residence that is not served by the outdoor wood furnace. The chimney of any new outdoor wood furnace not EPA-qualified would have to extend at least two feet above the peak of any residence not served by the furnace located within 300 feet of such furnace.

An EPA-qualified outdoor wood furnace would have to be located on property in compliance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The chimney should be at least two feet higher than the peak of the residence served if the furnace is located within 300 feet of any residence not served by the furnace. If the outdoor wood furnace is located within 100 feet of any residence not served by the furnace, the chimney would have to be two feet higher than the peak of the residence served or not served, which ever was higher.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits certain types of fuel in any new or existing outdoor wood furnace:

Wood that has been painted, varnished or coated with similar material or has been pressure treated with preservatives and contains resins or glues as in plywood or other composite wood products.

Rubbish or garbage, including food wastes, food packaging and food wraps.

Any plastic materials, including nylon, PVC, polystyrene or urethane foam, and synthetic fabrics, plastic films and plastic containers.

Rubber, including tires or other synthetic rubber-like products.

Newspaper, cardboard or any paper with ink or dye products.

Lonnie McCarty, who installed an outdoor wood furnace at his residence in 2009, said the smoke often depends on air quality.

“If your flue is 15 feet and the air is heavy, the smoke will come down,” McCarty said.

His outdoor wood furnace has filled the Southeastern Community College parking lot in Keokuk when the air was heavy, he added. The manufacturer recommends a three-foot flue on his unit, he said.

While the gas bills for heating his other properties during December-February were at least $500 a month, his heating bill at home has been less than $30 a month during the same period, he said.

Another woman said the smoke from her brother-in-law’s outdoor wood furnace will come over to her house if he raises the stack on his unit.

Council member John Helenthal, who has an outdoor wood furnace, said he’d like to see the proposed ordinance not take effect until May 1, or until after the current heating season. While he had problems with the first version of the proposed ordinance, the latest version seems fair, he added.

“It sounds like we’re trying to be as considerate as possible,” council member Ron Payne said.

In developing the proposed ordinance, an EPA model was used as a guide, according to Broomhall.

People who already own outdoor wood furnaces also would have to register them with the city.

Most communities ban outdoor wood furnaces entirely, Rose said.

Timeline presented

In other business, the council was given tentative dates for a let down structure to divert storm water over the bluff below North Ninth Street, pipes under the BNSF tracks below the bluff and Grand Avenue reconstruction.

The city will advertise for bids on the let down structure on March 8, open bids on April 1 and award a contract for the structure on April 4. The city will award a contract for the storm sewer pipes under the railroad tracks on March 7.

The city will advertise for bids on the Grand Avenue project on Feb. 22, open bids on March 18 and award a contract on March 21. The city wants the Grand Avenue project from Fourth to 14th streets to be substantially complete this year.

Boat club request

Southside Boat Club representative Dave Carroll said that organization would like to spearhead an effort to put sand volleyball courts and horseshoe pits on city-owned land north of the boat club. At present, the area is used for dumping, he said. In the past, excess snow and driftwood have been left in the area.

The boat club would contribute $1,000 to get the project off the ground. The Coast Guard has offered to provide labor, according to Carroll.

While council member Roger Bryant had no problem with the boat club’s proposal, he said, “Maybe we need something in writing.”

Payne said he liked that someone has come up with an idea to use empty space. Council member Zane Zirkel asked if having the volleyball courts and horseshoe pits in that area above the boat club would increase the city’s liability.

Horseshoe pits were installed in Rand and Riverview parks last year, Public Works Director Mark Bousselot said.

The council also discussed a request from Relay for Life Committee chair Kimberly Bell to hold a 5K fundraiser on Oct. 5 in conjunction with the Relay for Life of South Lee County. The city might have a problem with the route if Grand Avenue is under reconstruction in October, Bousselot pointed out.

During the regular meeting, the council:

Accepted the resignation of Chuck Betts from the Rand Park Pavilion Commission. Betts served as the first chair of the commission. He encouraged the council to include maintenance and operating funds for the pavilion in the city budget.

Appointed Jeff Fuller to the Rand Park Pavilion Commission.

Approved a cigarette permit for Dollar General.

Renewed a Class C beer permit with Sunday sales for Beck’s, a Class C liquor license with Sunday sales for Beef, Bread & Brew and a Class E liquor license with Sunday sales for Keokuk Spirits.

Heard that the restroom at Oakland Cemetery is not working.

Council members Mike O’Connor, Susan Dunek and Mike Moore were absent.

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