City council will vote next week on an ordinance banning any more exterior furnaces from being installed in the city. Then they will take some time to decide what to do with the ones already here.
Dale Sheppard, safety/service director, urged council to ultimately ban all exterior furnaces. "Banning these things is the appropriate thing to do because they are nasty devices," he said.
Linda Hebert, zoning officer for the city, also told council that regulating exterior furnaces would be difficult. She said four or five exterior furnaces are in the city now. She does not have records showing how many complaint calls she has received, but she said at least half of the complaints were about an exterior furnace on Henry Street that has been removed.
Henry Street residents came to complain about that furnace. "It affects the quality of life of many people," Jay Lukasko said. "I want my kids to be able to play outside."
Bryan Brown agreed. "A lot of times you don't see the smoke, but you smell the smoke," he said. He said the smoke triggered off migraines for his wife and asthma attacks for his daughter.
Tod Wise said regulations aren't enough. "We all know that people will do stuff and get away with it. The police department has better things to do" than check what people are burning in exterior furnaces, he said.
Kelly Beck, who has an exterior furnace, said the problem with the Henry Street furnace was that the owner burned green wood and didn't have a tall enough stack to get the smoke high enough into the air. He suggested council consider regulations about stack heights and what can be burned in exterior furnaces.
Beck also said the size of his lot would make possible setback requirements impossible.
Greg Dauch, another exterior furnace owner, said he has extended his stack by four feet since council first considered the issue and he will extend it further if his neighbors say the smoke is a problem.
Mike Hemenway, who sells exterior furnaces, urged council to consider the technological advances that have been made in the units.
Council members aren't ready to make a decision. "We're going to have to take some more time," Steve Euton said. "We're going to have to do some research."
Robert Carleton urged his fellow council members to consider a grandfather clause that would allow people with exterior furnaces to keep them. "We can't tell these people to take their investment and shove it," he said.
Mayor Sue Lesch said council should make residents their top priority. "I have great concerns about the health of the neighbors," she said. "Our first responsibility is to err on the side of caution. This isn't just a nuisance it's affecting people's quality of life and, perhaps, their health."
In other business:
Council approved the purchase of new playground equipment for Bishman Park. Thanks to a special deal from the company, the city will pay only $23,000 for a unit worth twice that amount.
Council approved a community reinvestment zone in the uptown area. Any businesses or residences in the approved area will be given tax abatements for remodeling, additions and new construction. Bethany Dentler, economic development director, estimated that the program will spur up to $500,000 worth of improvements in the area.