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City Council accepts Xcel grant over objections

By James Clinton, contributor

The proposed ash processing facility in Red Wing, which is slated for a 3.4-acre lot between Pioneer Road and Highway 61, caused several concerned citizens to come forward during Monday's City Council meeting.

Mark Walsworth, a Red Wing resident, said he believes the proposed site might encroach on a sensitive archaeological area. Walsworth presented comments from the State Archaeologist's Office and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council that suggests the proposed site is too close to the Water Tank Mound site for construction to move forward.

The public comment period for the ash processing facility does not conclude until Jan. 30. Kevin Kain, from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Tuesday he is aware of the concerns and will present more information once the public comment period concludes.

Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann also stressed Tuesday that the city "purposefully moved away from the archaeological site, and had hired a professional to tell us where culturally sensitive material was located."

No official decision on the use of the specific plot of land will be made until the public comment period concludes.

Alan Muller, also of Red Wing, focused on what he believe is a sincere threat to Red Wing's environmental and physical health.

"Emissions from garbage burning has a negative impact on the health and quality of life in the community. Nevertheless, the city as lobbied to burn more garbage," he said.

Muller urged council not to approve a $2 million grant from Xcel Energy's Renewable Energy Fund.

The council voted unanimously to accept the grant, which will fund improvements to the Red Wing Solid Waste Campus, not the proposed ash processing facility, staff said.

Councilmember Peggy Rehder addressed Muller's concerns.

"A tremendous amount of work has gone into securing this money, and the MPCA has approved every step. The MPCA believes what we're doing is mitigating environmental and health challenges," she said.

The environmental assessment worksheet for the proposed ash processing facility is open through Monday, Jan. 30. Written comments on the worksheet must be received by 4:30 p.m. that day. Comments can be submitted to or by mail to Kevin Kain, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 520 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul, MN 55155. Kain is available by phone at 651-757-2482.