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Editorial: Questions abound on ERS – landfill faceoff

Editorial by Matt Marquardt –

As the Energy Recovery Specialists / landfill faceoff looms this evening, questions abound.

It seems this game is getting nastier everyday, the train has run off the tracks; the mighty “A” team has taken a body blow and is now stumbling around the ring haplessly flailing, groping for traction as their dream of moving a garbage dump into city limits flickers away ever so slightly.  This project could easily pass; it could easily fail, too.  They know it is teetering on the brink of the abyss, and their desperation smells as bad as 250 tons of trash.

Since the “A” team is so eager to take questions from the Globe and provide answers, maybe they will take these questions as well:

Question #1: Speaking of moving a garbage dump into city limits, it is slated to move into the fourth ward.  Why hasn’t Janet Solberg, who represents ward 4, weighed in on this project?  Why hasn’t she attended ERS meetings, met with her constituents?  Janet, could you stop tinkering with your inbox and represent?

Question #2: Why is City Councilman Travis Hickey, today, contacting people with influence in neighboring small towns and asking questions about tonight’s landfill meeting?  Travis, what is your motivation?

Question #3: Where does North Iowa Corridor Director Brent Willett’s responsibility to this project end?  Is his job simply to recruit businesses to come to North Iowa, or is he also supposed to hand-hold them through the approval process, or perhaps, interfere with the approval process?  Should he show up at all the meetings and hearings and speak there, lobby for approval at every step, and even make nasty comments in the local newspaper when things don’t go his way?  Mr. Willett, how many jobs have you brought to North Iowa?

Question #4: City Administrator Brent Trout made it clear he intends to attend tonight’s landfill board meeting and “speak on behalf of the City Council.”  When did our City Council direct you, Mr. Trout, to attend this meeting and become a lobbyist for a project that the city council has not approved?  Mr. Trout, are you becoming political?  If they feel strongly enough about the project, why don’t they attend the meeting themselves (Janet, where are you?)  Mr. Trout, were you given direction behind closed doors to attend this meeting?  It took a city council vote to give you permission to drive to the twin cities and tour arenas.  Is this project different in some way?  You mentioned the city council “voted to move forward with this project.”  Well, they made the same vote one time on the gentlemen’s club idea, and that idea was squashed quickly.  Do you know ahead of time that this project would be approved by our city council?  Where in your job description does it list “lobbyist?”

Mr. Trout was nice enough to provide some answers to the above questions.  His answers are appreciated: “The council did not direct me to attend the meeting and speak on this issue. I made that decision on my own because this is an important economic development project in our City and the City Council has made a decision to support the project so it then becomes part of my job. Part of my job is to encourage economic development in this community and this is an important project towards accomplishing economic development. If I did not attend the meeting and speak for the project that would probably be looked at by my council and others as not having done my job. You may consider it a political issue but the fact is the political side of it ended for me when the council made their decision on the support of the terms of the development agreement. At this point I am simply advocating for a position that has already been decided by my City Council. The only way it could be political for me would be if this decision had not already been made and approved by the City Council. The Mayor or City Council members could go and speak for themselves and some may take that opportunity. Because the decision has been made by City Council I can accomplish this role for them. If a council member was not in agreement with the majority decision then I would expect them to do their own talking on the matter at the meeting. The City Council has already decided on this issue so they have already determined the City’s position and I will simply be restating that position to landfill board.”

Question #5: Where is Mayor Eric Bookmeyer’s leadership on this project?  Outside of a letter he wrote months ago in support of the project, that only “A” team members saw, he hasn’t said much in public about it.  Mayor, why don’t you show up at tonight’s meeting and rally the board to vote this thing through?  Do you have the political skills to pull it off?  Do you have other plans this evening? You seem to have sent everyone else to do the dirty work here, and none of them have done a very good job (right, Scott?)  Is moving a landfill into city limits part of the “sustainability” plan that you advocate?  Can you explain how this lowers our carbon footprint?

Stay tuned for a full report on tonight’s landfill meeting.


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Blog away Matt! That’s the magic of blogging, there’s no rules! Have at it!

Ha ha haaaa Todd! Matt you chewed that one and spit it out. Sweet. Blah blah blah Trout. Whatever. Solberg is one lazy heartless wreck herself. Home raggin on…. well, take your pick. Resumes resumes. For the love of resumes.

In Re: Question #1. As was presented a few times by CES, the refuse will be ‘tipped’ inside a building, which will confine any odor which may be caused. It’s storage will be short term as I understood the presentations. If need be, overflow can be diverted to the Landfill.

I hope the city does not build anything near the bottoms – I like my swamp just the way it is.

Food for Thought:

Unproven technology and rushing into a future with uncertainty is unwise.

Waiting and using North Iowa’s waste for the betterment of North Iowa is the right direction for North Iowa and leadership at it’s best.

Using waste to create energy in some form is going to happen! Smart Communities will use that waste to create “profit” for the North Iowa Landfill to reduce costs and the tax burden on the communities that make up the North Iowa Landfill.

I support Bill Rowland’s recommendation!


We won’t loose the jobs at all. When the North Iowa Landfill moves forward to use the waste to create energy, and they will at some point.

Those 50 or more jobs will be here!!!



I for one I’m looking forward to the meeting tonight. I am hoping my ward person is there tonight so she will be well informed about this issue. Every council meeting I have been at I have asked her why she doesn’t feel she needs to be at them? (after all it is in her ward). As of yet have not got an answer. BEING there and getting second hand information is NOT the same.

Matt – it looks like you are going to be nice to John Lee so it doesn’t look like you hate everyone on the council.

In my view Alex Kuhn is articulate, has vision and looking out for everyone. I attend all council meetings and was at the budget hearing, Kuhn was the first to look out for taxpayers and cut spending to reduce the levy as far as possible. he talked about looking out for seniors on fixed incomes and ‘shared sacrifice’. why not ever give him praise for looking out for taxpayers. Kuhn will be a great leader but you tear him down for doing good by his constituents. he said he wanted a public vote and if the civic center were built he would look for innovative ways to use city generated renewable energy to lower operations cost.

So in summary, if you want Kuhn and others to work with you. point out the great work Kuhn is doing instead of name calling and character assasination attempts at every turn. In the long run all you will accomplish is to get less qualified people to run for public office.

Thank you Todd, I agree that Kuhn and Lee are doing great work and those two need to get recognition instead of unfounded attacks every time they open their mouth. if NIT wants to be serious alternative news they have to build trust with those they work with, i’m not saying give free passes when people push bad policy, but be fair and trustworthy about they way they work. Probably why Matt has such a tough time being taken seriously, lously credibility and reputation for stabbing people in the back

Todd: Thank you for your comments, I appreciate that. I can take your criticism. Let me say, I have treated the council and all city staff with the utmost respect. In fact I ate lunch with a city employee yesterday and we agreed to put our differences aside and work together. That being said, your assertion that I engage in “character assassination” and “name calling” is baseless and unfounded. I would assert that they, Kuhn included, are withering under the pressure of being asked tough questions, and they are hiding from me. Only Brent Trout and Travis Hickey have been professional enough to respond to my questions. Mr. Kuhn has ducked me for weeks; my phone and email is always open to him and the others. I am ready and willing to work with them in a professional manner.

Maybe if council members (especially, the mayor, Tornquist & Solberg plus the Globe) weren’t Black Balling Matt & NIT it would be easier for Matt to be nice to… At least NiT doesn’t hide stuff& reports the whole story!

how can you say you treat them with utmost respect. you said Kuhn ran and hid when voting on microenterprise. That was the furthest thing from a conflict of interest it was funny news. his mom is on foundation board, NOTHING to do with JPEC or microenterprise, not JPEC board or NIACC board, the foundation board. if you did your research you would see that foundation is 100% seperate entity of NIACC, read up.

Kuhn did an advertisement on your website and you were at his campaign announcement and big events he had and you let Peter Children trash his family and called them rich snobs, a family that has close to 30 years in public office with great respect from everyone.

Also, you put a picture of an elected official next to Spak and mocked him for the way he talks and called another elected official ‘clueless’ in Solberg, why would they work with you….come on Matt, show professionalism,

Finally some real debate. Thank you for taking the time to engage. With that said, you are venturing into troubled waters here. I spoke to a member of the Iowa State Legislature, who agreed quite vociferously with me when I asked if Kuhn and Tornquist had a conflict with the NIACC JPEC vote. The ombudsman office was also very interested in this DEVELOPING story. I will keep you informed on how that turns out.

As for your other remarks, what Mr. Children writes is his business, it was nothing a politician should not be able to handle. Alex should call up Mr. Children and work out their differences.

I’m sad that you did not like my editorial and photos; I didn’t put a photo of “Spak” next to Tornquist, it was Data, please read up on your Start Trek facts. It was all my opinion and so far Solberg has given me no reason to think she is anything other than disengaged and clueless.

Mr. Marsters is correct. The city council voted to move the project along, they did not vote approval. Everyone has been encouraged to move this along–and now Tornquist is pushing for it to move fast. Finally someone had the courage to stand up and take a hard look at this project. Thanks to the landfill for hiring a landfill consultant and landfill attorneys to evaluate the project. It does not work here.

Matt if you really cared about Mason City you should stop attacking Hickey and Solberg. When Max was doing “research” on any other “project” where are you questioning him? The best part was Max didnt care if anyone questioned him on why, cause he thought he was doing what a council member was suppose to do. So if Hickey wants to make a call, why would anyone care yet alone write about that? Same for Solberg. So please do North Iowa a favor and write an editorial that sticks to the issues and not attacks, anybody can point a finger at someone. A skill journialist knows what is real important..prove me wrong Matt.

handke: I appreciate your comment, however, I disagree. What you call “attacking” I call asking tough questions. If you are a politician or serving the public, you should be ready to answer any question. There is absolutely no reason to duck a question about a garbage plant or a remodel job of city hall unless there is something to hide. If Mr. Hickey is making calls in his capacity as a city councilman, we all have a right to know why and what was said, as he is representing us.


Hey Hmmmm- quit apologizing without cause.

Marsters is clearly stating this project is being rushed and he would not be happy if this was happening while he was still seated on the council.

Without this “rag” as you call it, this would be swept under the rug. Go blog on the Globe.


My favortie quote about this whole mess-

“Willett pointed out the proposal underwent the scrutiny of private investors willing to put $35 million into the project”.

On that basis, the whole mortgage meltdown and the bust would have had the same dubious blessing. Try again, idiots.

I believe the City Council ONLY voted ‘NOT TO KILL’ the project at the very start. I don’t remember the City Council ever voting absolutely FOR the project!

I am personally neither for (nor) against the project, however, I do think it is being rushed without all the information & T’s all crossed! I don’t understand all the urgency to get it rushed to construction!

Mr Masters, let me apologize on behalf of this rag. They take any possible chance to sensationalize everything they see…to the negative, and to cause more stress and anger in the community you serve.

The more problems they can create, stir up, and drive with this rag is the common goal.

I appreciate that you do what you do, thanks.

I also know I’m not on the council anymore, however, I wouldn’t be a happy Council member if the City Administrator was speaking for myself in total support if I hadn’t made up my mind for sure!

Mr. Marsters, thank you for taking a moment to weigh in on this important issue. As far as the comment by “Hmmmm” I do believe public debate is healthy and quite American, not a cause of “stress and anger” unless you are an “A” teamer and losing the battle, as is the case on this issue.

@Hmmm, if you don’t like the site, then don’t read it. This community has needed something like this news site for quite a while now. No sugar coating, No b.s., just downright good, “honest” reporting.

Maybe Mr. Trout felt compelled to answer and to attend the meeting so he can project the image that he’s actually working for that 146 grand he gets paid a year.

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