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Frustrated Mitchell residents push back on fines for compost violation

In total, 32 Mitchell residents were fined for dumping compost at the drop off site prior to the April 5 opening day.

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Several Mitchell residents voiced their frustrations with the city on Monday night after being fined for dumping compost prior to the opening date at the City of Mitchell's Compost Drop off Site at 1400 West 8th Avenue, west of the HWY 37 Bypass. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Some Mitchell residents who were recently fined for dumping compost at the city’s drop off site prior to the opening date aired out their frustrations on Monday night.

After 32 residents were recently fined for violating the city’s compost regulations, a handful of them pushed back on the citations during the citizens input portion of the Mitchell City Council meeting. Although the city put out a press release on March 29, notifying residents that the 1405 W. Eighth Ave. compost site would begin accepting compost, such as grass, leaves and other organic material, on April 5, several residents were disgruntled by the gates being opened prior to April 5.

Norman Peterson, of Mitchell, was among the residents who received a fine for dumping compost prior to April 5.

“I am here to protest the citation for dumping compost... When I drove up, the gate was open and there was someone dumping compost,” Peterson said. “To me, there is nothing illegal for doing that.”

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Linda Thompson, another Mitchell resident who was fined for a compost violation, was disgruntled with the signage that was posted at the compost site, which were reminders of the April 5 drop off opening day. City officials posted three signs at the site reminding residents of the compost drop off opening day, but Thompson said piles of leaves were covering some of the signs, making them “hard to see.”

“The sign was knocked down. These signs should be on the front gates right when you walk in, not in the corner and here and there everywhere,” Thompson said to the council. “When the pile gets big and high, how are you supposed to see it over the leaves?”

Council member Steve Rice said he received calls from residents who were frustrated with the lack of clarification on the date that the city’s compost site was open for drop offs. Rice criticized what he called “conflicting information” that was posted by the city about the opening day for drop offs at the compost yard, noting the city’s website stated drop offs would be accepted in April, while the press release stated the official opening day for drop offs was April 5.

“When I asked them if they saw the press release that the city put out, and they said they did not. But when they did go to the city’s website, they saw it said compost and recycling April through October,” Rice said. “To me that means the first day of April it is open for compost drop offs. The fact we put out a separate press release that said we weren’t going to start until April 5 without changing the website concerns me. We are giving conflicting information, and we tell people to look at our website.”

For council member John Doescher, if the gates to the compost site are open, that should mean the city is accepting compost drop offs.

“If the gates are open, then it is open. If it is locked, then it is closed,” Doescher said.

The gates at the compost site remained open prior to April 5 for recycling drop offs. There are several recycling bins inside the compost site for recycling drop offs, which are open year-round. Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said the city plans on reconfiguring the gates to avoid a similar issue.

Council member Susan Tjarks also sided with the residents who were fined, pointing to the conflicting information on the city’s website.

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“These people went to the compost in good faith, and the gates were open. I have a hard time understanding why we are ticketing people for asking them what they are supposed to do, which is take care of their yards,” Tjarks said.

Tjarks asked city officials whether there is a way to remedy the issue, considering there were over 30 fines dolled out.

According to Police Chief Mike Koster, the dollar amount for the fine will be decided in court, since the citation is a court summons.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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