ORONOCO — The wheels of government oversight move too slowly for Terry Leary's tastes.
"One a scale of one to 10," Leary said. "It's a 10."
Leary, an Oronoco Township resident, has been spearheading efforts by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to work with the owners of Oronoco Auto Parts to clean up the former salvage yard.
Leary said the site is still strewn with piles of tires and auto parts junk that will almost certainly get carried downstream once winter melts away in March or April. This is on top of the fact that, despite a cleanup day that was held in October, plenty of automotive trash litters the flood plains from the salvage yard down to Lake Zumbro.
“We’re just totally polluted down that river," Leary said. "You can’t step in it without concern about stepping on metal or old tires. I’m not at all pleased about what’s been done so far."
Township Board Chairman Supervisor Charlie Lacy said he has received updates from the MPCA, but those updates have consisted of statements that the state agency cannot comment while an enforcement action against the owners of the salvage yard is pending.
Lacy said a second cleanup day could and should be held in the spring, but that will be up to the township and the county. The last clean up day, where dumpsters were set up for people to bring their river debris at no cost, was a success with many residents bringing auto parts and other junk to the collection sites.
"It shows how committed people are to making it better," he said. "We split the cost of the cleanup with the county, and I think going forward we’d like to do more."
Lacy said one downside is the township has no authority to go into the salvage yard and conduct any preventative cleanup efforts or force the owners of the site to clean it up without the MPCA's enforcement.
In other business
The township board made a change in personnel as longtime Supervisor Neil Stolp resigned his seat on the board on Nov. 30.
The board of supervisors agreed to replace Stolp on an interim basis with Tammy Matzke, who will fill the seat until the March 10 township board election. At that time, Matzke or anyone else in the township can run to fill the remainder of Stolp's term for two years.
Stolp had served on the township board for 21 years.
“His contribution to this township has been incalculable,” Lacy said.
Finally, the board heard from a representative of the Olmsted County Parks Department, who said that the park board planned to purchase Fisherman's Inn on the west shore of Lake Zumbro to turn the site into a county park and boat launch.
The deal is being made to replace the parkland lost by the sale of Biermann House, part of the Mayowood property in Rochester. The sale should be finalized by the end of the year, and the structure will be removed next spring or summer.
Eventually, the county hopes to build a picnic shelter and/or public restroom at the site.