After giving the owners what they considered ample time to come into compliance with their Conditional Use Permit, the Isanti County Board of Commissioners approved beginning the process for revoking the CUP for First State Tire. The decision was based on the recommendation of Isanti County Zoning Administrator Trina Bergloff.
The first step in the process is to conduct a public hearing, which will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 18 for public comment.
Isanti County sent a letter Jan. 27 to First State Tire owner Monte Niemi regarding three conditions with which the business was not in compliance, including not following the state fire marshal’s recommendations to address fire hazard concerns; not complying with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) permit regulations, state code, health department, and their National Pollutant Elimination System (NPDES) permits, wetland permits, and septic permits; and the east side of the property being screened with a double row of evergreens, according to Bergloff.
Since that letter, Niemi indicated the business will be in compliance with the screening of the property on the east side when weather permits the fulfillment of a contract to plant the additional trees, Bergloff noted.
“As it sits today, we did do a site visit of the property to see if it was in compliance as of last week, and it was not. 10 of the 13 tire piles are still out of compliance,” Bergloff said, noting that a future request that was discussed during that visit was to remodel the layout of those tire piles.
The remodel would allow for more tire piles on the property to bring them down to below 10 feet. However, before that can happen three stormwater ponds on the property need to be filled, and the business is working with the MPCA on that issue, Bergloff said.
Marty Seifert addressed the board on behalf of Niemi and First State Tire, stating that he knows the frustration of the board
“I told Mr. Niemi, and I told Commissioner (Mike) Warring, I will lock the facility myself if I don’t see aggressive, timely expeditious action on this, because I know it has been a frustration for some time,” Seifert said. “The situation we were put in really was untenable and impossible to comply with.”
The reason for that is the product manufactured by the facility is least utilized during January and February, Seifert noted, adding that the company aggressively called every customer that could possibly take the material.
As of the board meeting, First State Tire was taking in 50% less tires than the business was taking in December. “You can’t get into compliance if you keep bringing tires in at that level,” Seifert said.
There are 50 families who work at the business that Seifert noted would be without work and “thrown into chaos” if the business were to shut down.
There have been meetings with Isanti County Planning and Zoning, MPCA, fire marshal, and Wenk engineering was brought in to try to establish a suitable schedule for bringing the business into compliance, Seifert added, noting the number of loads of tire shreds that have been or are scheduled to be delivered in order to bring the tire piles into compliance.
There are three larger piles of tires that need to come into compliance that will be taken care of with stormwater project, he noted.
There is a stage site for a future project in Martin County, and that county has issued a permit to allow tire shreds to be moved. However, the MPCA notified them a permit was also needed from the MPCA and a 30-day comment period was needed before issuing a permit.
“Keep in mind, the MPCA had a permit from Mr. Niemi sitting on its desk for 18 months to expand the (Isanti County) site and get into compliance,” Seifert said. “They acknowledged at that meeting Trina and I were at, ‘Sorry, we had that permit for 18 months and didn’t bother with it.’”
He noted Niemi was trying to get into compliance with that permit request, but the MPCA sat on it for 18 months and has not offered a reason for it.
“If we could get a few more weeks to get these customers serviced and get that permit for Martin County processed through the MPCA, this will be resolved,” Seifert said. “I think as all of you know, people read the newspaper and say, ‘Should I even be working here, because this place is going to be shut down.’ This is very sensitive for our employees. I know you are frustrated, I know Trina is frustrated. I know Mr. Niemi is frustrated.”
Warring asked Seifert why tires were continuing to be brought into the business when the piles were currently out of compliance.
Seifert explained it was a delicate balance in order to not lay off any employees during the slow months of operation, while attempting to increase the net output for the busy season.
Warring also noted this situation did not just arise in the last few months, but has been an ongoing issue with First State Tire.
“I thought we have extended as far as we legally can extend without taking an action, and the next action would be the public hearing, at that point you can make your presentations again,” Warring said.