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Vi-COR reps flee NIT’s tough questions as pressure mounts on city to act on smell


This news story was published on May 10, 2012.
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Editorial by Matt Marquardt –

MASON CITY – Neighbors who live nearby Vi-COR’s production plant on South Benjamin Avenue are steaming mad about the on-going smell the plant is emitting.

The City of Mason City has allowed Vi-COR to continue production at their plant despite admissions from city officials that the plant is not in compliance with zoning ordinances.

I caught up with Vi-COR neighbor Ralph Madison Thursday afternoon just outside the plant to observe the smokestacks pumping out a white mist and hear from him the concerns of his neighbors.

(PHOTO: Ralph Madison of Mason City was approached Thursday afternoon by what appeared to be Vi-COR rep’s who offered to answer questions… until NIT started asking them.)

“I am blown away that the City refuses to enforce its own codes,” Madison said, speaking of the zoning ordinances that govern the behavior of businesses and residences in the city. In this case, Vi-COR on S. Benjamin Ave. is in a Z6-R (Restricted Industrial District) zone where it is written in city code that “facilities whose manufacturing, assembly, storage and distribution activities do not create appreciable nuisances or hazards, or that require a pleasant, hazard-and nuisance-free environment. It is intended that the permitted functions be compatible and not detrimental to adjacent properties.”

City Administrator Brent Trout confirmed on Wednesday that the Vi-COR plant is out of compliance, and several other neighbors claim to have spoken with At-Large City Council member Alex Kuhn who they say told them that the plant is not complying with the zoning ordinance.

However, enforcing the city’s codes is not that easy, as the city intends to keep a pro-business attitude and protect the new reputation it is trying to build as pro-business.

Trout said the city is hesitant to shut the plant down until it can comply with the zoning codes due to about 5 jobs he said are at the plant and because the company has orders coming in for the product they are producing.  “The odor is stronger than it has been,” Trout said.  “We are working with the neighbors and Vi-COR to find a solution.”

One of the proposed solutions is for the plant to operate on a limited basis until a special piece of equipment called a thermal oxidizer is installed, rumored to be done in late July.

Trout said that Vi-COR has ordered a thermal oxidizer to eliminate the smell from the plant.  Trout could not say where the oxidizer is on order from, nor could a person who seemed to be a Vi-COR rep that left in a hurry today as questions started coming his way, even though he offered to answer questions.

The folks in the Briarstone neighborhood claim that the smell today was “very strong.”  They say they have been given promise after promise since as early as 2007 when they met with Vi-COR executives to air their concerns.

These Mason City citizens will remain in limbo until City Hall decides which is more important: The rule of law or appeasing industry.

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40 Responses to Vi-COR reps flee NIT’s tough questions as pressure mounts on city to act on smell

  1. Avatar

    Matt L Reply Report comment

    August 31, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I come to Mason City about once a week. I visit the Cargill plant. There are days, like today where the odor is spowerful that I retch, my eyes water, and I mustn’t breathe, or the stench would incapacitate me. I type this, huddled in a self contained pocket of air within my vehicle, waiting for my stomacher to settle and my head to stop pounding.

    It seems the source is a nearby facility, run by Vi-Cor, that ones not comply with city ordinances. This is indicative of a city with poor leadership who seems intent on torturing citizens and visitors until they leave for good.

    Shame on all those responsible, especially those who have the power to correct this ludicrous situation yet do nothing.

    It makes it impossible to form a positive or even charitable opinion of the city at large.

    I need to lie down.

    Matt
    Minneapolis

  2. Avatar

    Mary Madison Reply Report comment

    August 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    What’s the latest on the thermal oxidizer at ViCor’s plant on South Benjamin??? The stench has been awful again the past couple of weeks on Springview Drive in particular. Has the oxidizer been installed? Neighbors of ViCor understand that the oxidizer has been installed. If that’s the case, it’s NOT working!! It’s now the 22nd of August. How much longer is the City of Mason City going to allow ViCor to CONTINUE to VIOLATE the city’s zoning ordinance? Enough is enough!!!!!!!!!

  3. Avatar

    springview dr resident Reply Report comment

    May 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I’m willing to have the mayor, city council, and anyone else who thinks the air in our neighborhood is fresh and clean over for coffee on my deck in the morning. How dare they approve and make decisions that are simply wrong and unfair to others. Everyone has the right to enjoy the outdoors everyday, not just when the wind is blowing a certain direction. When will these people put a stop to this pollution? All this double talk and promises don’t clean the air we breath over here.

  4. Avatar

    *Sick of the stench* Reply Report comment

    May 17, 2012 at 11:47 am

    APPEASE INDUSTRY… how about enforcing the zoning codes/laws before for the “newly relocated” industry is allowed operate? What the Hell are laws/zoning codes for anyway ? I was at Hy-Vee West this morning and could smell VI-COR stench all the way over there! How do MERCY HOSPITAL EXECS handle this issue?

    So much for M.C. being a BLUE ZONE City….JOKE!!!

    • Avatar

      Kinkyh Reply Report comment

      May 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      How do MERCY HOSPITAL EXECS handle this issue?

      Same way they handle the pyrotechnics outfit when they blow hell out of things !!!

  5. Avatar

    Emanresu Reply Report comment

    May 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

    FOUL STENCH of VI-COR, So Benjamin Ave. in the air again today – can’t even open the windows ! UGH – City Council where are you???? Solberg, Kuhn & Tornquist – who are you serving ??????

  6. Avatar

    Lawsteward Reply Report comment

    May 16, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I have to think that this story and the blogs herein show a need for getting this story out into the “fresh air” and sunshine, but I have to say that there is alot of “mis-information” or should I say total conjecture being put on these pages without a lot of fact behind it. I can see the “heat” generated by this issue, but unless there is substantial proof somewhere I don’t think we can be saying that Ms Sandahl and Mr Trout have been taking “bribes” or hush money! Although I have my own feelings about what I think those in power knew or didn’t know when Vi-Cor started up their new addition on the westside of town…I really don’t have any proof of that, but what I do know is that Mr Trout “does” know now that Vi-Cor is currently and has been operating in violation of city code. I would ask you bloggers to try and tone down the retoric if you can, but more importantly try not to use possible libelous statements …unless you have proof of same!

    • Avatar

      Emanresu Reply Report comment

      May 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

      LAWSTEWARD…. it is “rhetoric”, not retoric. TROUT & SANDAHL definately know and have known for well over one year that VI-COR (So. Benjamin)has been operating, and continues to operate, in violation of City Codes. I’m certain the City Council knows as well, as they all have been informed on this issue – and where are they???? DAMN GOOD QUESTION – especially Janet (What Smell) Solberg, 4th Ward Council person, and at-large TORNQUIST & newly elected KUHN???? They have done absolutely nothing to resolve this issue – NOTHING !!!!!!!!
      Mason City now a “BLUE ZONE DEMONSTRATION SITE” ………what a joke !

      • Avatar

        anonymous Reply Report comment

        May 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        If you know all of that, then you’d know that Sandahl hasn’t been the zoning administrator since 2007.

  7. Avatar

    rukidding Reply Report comment

    May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Trout was hired to take care of this kind of issue and to make sure city ordiances were followed where has he been on this. I too would like to know where the city council is on this issue its time they step up to the plate Solberg what are you doing to help the people in your ward, Kuhn, Tornquist if Solberg is unwilling to represent her ward you guys need to step up and find out why Trout has not acted on this after all this time and take the appropriate actions toward him after all you are the boss of him and all city employees. This company has had plenty of time to comply with all zoning ordinances no more excuses

  8. Avatar

    S.E. resident, We have been complaining about the noise and smell for years from the S. Carolina plant all they have done is put taller stacks on building and noisy equipment on east side of building so office on west side would not be bothered then I find out they did all these somewhat improvments and adding large storage silo without any permitts from our city and the city is aware that this is going on. But yet the average citizen can’t do anything to his or her own property without first getting a permitt. As far as I am concerned the mayor and city city council are making Mason City the laughing stock of IOWA

  9. Avatar

    South Carolina Reply Report comment

    May 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Hey *Larry* go fu*k yourself. Neither my family, myself, or anybody I know work for ViCor and I’m certainly not the mayor. There is nothing in my statement that should have led you to believe that I was. I lived on South Carolina and I got over the smell because I’m an adult and realize there are bigger issues that need to be taken care of this failing city.

    • Avatar

      *Larry* Reply Report comment

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 am

      LOL ! You sure are an adult. I think the stench from V’s So. Carolina factory has affected you like a doobie does !!! … or do you call it canibis perhaps ? Keep breathing deeply and inhale the stench – I would vote for you for Mayor – NOT ! You probably have a tube hooked up to your rectal opening with a direct line to your nasal passages – RIGHT!

  10. Avatar

    Emanresu Reply Report comment

    May 14, 2012 at 8:12 am

    New week…. VI-COR stench will be in the air again! Ah – Mason City = armpit of Iowa 🙁

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

    REMEMBER WHEN CES WAS GOING TO COME AND YOUR GOVERMENT TOLD YOU WE HAVE ALL KINDS OF SAFEGARDS IN PLACE AND WILL MONITOR THEM CLOSELY AND ANY INFRACTIONS WILL BE DEALT WITH. WELL HERE YOU SEE TRUE FACTS AND STILL???? IF YOU WERE NOT FOR CES COMING HERE YOU SHOULD BE EVEN MORE OUTRAGED BY THIS AND STAND UP WITH THOSE FOLKS AND PROTEST AT CITY HALL CITY COUNCIL CALL YOUR REPS AND DEMAND THEY ENFORCE THE LAW!!! AS IT STANDS THEY ALL LOOK LIKE BITCHES!!! BITCHES TO HOLT THAT IS AS ITS APPARENT THEY HAVE BENT OVER!!!! AND A COUPLE PROBABLY HAVE THERE HANDS OUT HEADING FOR THAT NEXT GREAT POLITICAL ADVENTURE.. REMEMBER THEM AND STAND UP AND SPEAK FOR THE CITIZEN!!!!

  12. Avatar

    Dave Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2012 at 8:12 am

    To all affected that have to deal with this. I suggest banning together, hire a lawyer and file a petition against the city and Vi-Cor. Together you are all stronger than any one individual complaining to the city. Good Luck.

    • Avatar

      Aspirin Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Mr. Madison is not the only resident that has complained to the City. Complaints have been made by many folks that live on the West Side, not just the Briarstone neighborhood. Complaints have gone unheard with no action by the City or Council! An informative meeting was held 5 years ago for residents of the West Side of Mason City and at that time VI-COR owner, Mark Holt, clearly stated there would be no odors as they would install a thermal oxidizer to eliminate any such obnoxious odors. These comments were also supported by Mike Lunning & Henry Savoy. Several members of the (that time) city council were also present at the presentation at the Holiday Inn, but to no avail the company began producing just a little over one year ago and still no resolution – the stench continues to permeate the air. West Side neighbors will become prisoners in their own homes if this is not resolved! No open windows or outdoor enjoyment as they have enjoyed for many, many years. And what happens to the property values ??????? I’ll bet residents on WOODSHIRE LANE enjoy quality air and outdoor acitvities, along with fresh quality air floating through open windows on beautiful mornings, afternoons & evenings ! M.C. PLEASE ENFORCE THE ZONING CODES !

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 11, 2012 at 6:43 am

    I think it is a great thing companies are expanding into industrial park. For so many years industrial park was a joke and a waste land of vacant buildings. Are we just that uptight of people that we can’t see the smell as being money and jobs? I’ve heard Mason City was a town built on blue collar work. People complaining about a company expanding its operation into industrial park and creating more jobs in our community because of a smell just need to find something else to bitch about. How bout the number of local companies working at the high school?

    • Avatar

      resident of springview dr Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

      To the comment about companies expanding in Industrial Park–I think it is great also but at what price. When you can’t open your windows or have fresh air in your neighborhood because of the air pollution a factory produces, common sense tells your that just isn’t right. I suppose the almighty dollar will win out again. Let’s expand and create jobs but do it the right, fair, and legal way.

    • Avatar

      *Larry* Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2012 at 8:38 am

      Hey Anonymous – The law is the law! VI-COR is breaking the law, compliments of city leadership. Simple solution would be to shut the company down until the necessary equipment is installed to elminate any odors – PLAIN & SIMPLE ! Kraft Foods has a thermal oxidizer, the egg processing plant has a thermal oxidizer – so WHY NOT VI-COR ???? Tricia Sandahl gave them her blessings, just a few short years ago, to move out to So. Benjamin location, knowing they would be producing such a horrendous stench ! I’ve been told that a lawyer (from out of town )already has been hired and this information lies in his hands ready to move upon command !

    • Avatar

      *Larry* Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      Bookie is that you again ?? or is it your buddy Mark, Big Daddy beer provider ????? Kiss off !

  14. Avatar

    Simple Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Janet “WHAT SMELL” Solberg. Of course a dog can’t smell his own sh!$ so I see why she can’t smell a thing.

    • Avatar

      Bushpilot Reply Report comment

      May 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

      I’ve commuted along the bike trail for several years. Last summer when they started blowing smoke out of that facility, it was choking! I used to enjoy taking that route in the mornings, and have chosen to take a different route for health and safety concerns. I’m still using that trail for evening commuting and have noticed the scent will hang in the trees long after burning stops.

      I also find it curious, who let the Waste Management park open, dirty dumpsters, between Budweiser and the Cargill Kitchen Solution factory. During summer heat, it’s difficult to distinguish between trash and egg plant.

      Gives me the impression that it didn’t take much to swing the Blue Zone committee in Mason City’s favor.

  15. Avatar

    Resident of Springview Dr. Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    For the people on S. Carolina, I feel bad for you but 2 wrongs don’t make a right. We did not move into the air polluted area, they can to us. We did not have a choice to live by this plant. It simply doesn’t make any sense that anyone in our city can’t enjoy the outdoors and open their windows for fresh air. If the people responsible for thedr decisions lived on Springview Dr., I’m sure we wouldn’t have these conversations.

  16. Avatar

    Sherlock Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Is it relavant to compare what is happening between the City and Vi-COR to the concerns voiced by many citizens about CES? If this is how our city “helps” the community? How might they have helped CES out of a jam? These questions are only usefull to the extent that the City Gocernment is playing games or incompetant and needs to be micro-managed by the citizenry. And, “how” the City will court any future business with questionable practices.

    Inconsistency by our city government can be addressed during the fall elections. Vote.

  17. Avatar

    acreage owner Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Hmmmmm seems you city folksare getting all upset about nothing, where is the news/reporting/ filming for us when the HOG LOTS move in down the road WE HAVE ONLY ONE CHOICE

    MOVE

  18. Avatar

    Aspirin Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    City leadership at its ugliest….. all they spit out are lies. VI-COR owners rank right up there as well……LIES, LIES, & More LIES. Why not enforce the zoning codes? Why do we have such codes if they are not enforced? I wonder just how much VI-COR paid-off Trout & Sandahl to operate illegally at this location? And for how many jobs – 5 – really now! Folks near the South Carolina plant had no recourse – the stench was rammed down their throats. Tricia Sandahl must be sick of the stench downtown since she proudly promoted VI-CORs move to So. Benjamin Ave. But when both facilities are operating the whole town will smell horrendous ! Why not install equipment to remedy the odor problems? Why not enforce the City Codes? Why should the West Side of Mason City have to tolerate such an obnoxious, offensive odor when there is equipment that can remedy this nusiance? Where are the City Council reps for the West Side, Kuhn & Solberg????????

  19. Avatar

    rukidding Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Everybody wants business here but not if they are scum bags breaking the laws and indangering the health and safety of our citizens. Council its about time you stand up and tell a part time mayor and a city administrator to enforce the city code you and not the mayor or Brent Trout are in charge.

    • Avatar

      Sick of the stench Reply Report comment

      May 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

      CITY COUNCIL…. where the Hell are you on this issue? Solberg & Kuhn what are you doing to help out the folks on the west side faced with this obnoxious odor problem? And where are Hickey, Tornquist, Lee & Marinos – are they all hibernating since CES bit the dust? What purpose does the council serve if not to enforce zoning codes/laws? Wake up Mason City – you smell like a$$ when V is producing. Yes….. A$$ – money is more important than installing the necessary equipment to eliminate any odors…. so maybe the council has received a little $$$ not to act on this issue…. and perhaps beer money for the mayor !

  20. Avatar

    Emanresu Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    City leadership is all part of the “Good Ol Boys Club” – you let me operate my business against zoning codes/laws and you can have a ride on my airplane, along with Ooompa Loompah girl ! Mason City Mafia at its finest….UGH ! Why did the VI-Cor Rep ( looked like Henry Savoy) not answer the questions put forward? Cowardly act .. run to Momma or should I say “Big Daddy”.

    • Avatar

      Clever...Username.....BACKWARDS Reply Report comment

      May 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      because “usernamE” isnt cowardley right?easy to slander others under a fake name……here’s to you brave one….(my fake name I mean…..)??

  21. Avatar

    Mary Madison Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I love the “positive” comments folks have already left on this story. Big things like snow parking tickets, seat belt violations. Are you serious? Sounds like you’re not in favor of any laws much less obeying the laws that are in place! You violate the law, you DESERVE a ticket. Same goes for ViCor. The City and ViCOR PROMISED – yes I said PROMISED – that ViCor would install a thermal oxidizer before they began production at the South Benjamin plant. That promise has not been kept. ViCor is in direct violation of a city zoning ordinance. They know it and the City knows it. All of the council members and the Mayor knows it. So we’re supposed to believe that this makes it right. South Carolina says its okay to stink up all parts of the City now because he/she has lived with this for a long time. How does that make it right? I truly feel bad for the folks impacted by the ViCor facility on South Carolina. I grew up on that side of town so I am familiar with that stench. That makes it right to stink up the entire town?? The plant at South Benjamin moved into that facility knowing full well what the zoning was. Watch the tape of the November 2007 meeting that was held with ViCor, Mark Holt and the WEST SIDE (yes I said West Side – this affects more than the Briarstone area. You should also know that Briarstone is heavily impacted because of its proximity to the plant which is a zone that specifies that foul odors cannot leave the property line) and you’ll see ViCor PROMISE to be a good neighbor. He’s not so that makes it OK???

    We’re now a Blue Zone Demonstration site. ViCor delivers the stench from both sides of Federal, contributing to the “well-being” and “quality of life” of Mason City. I don’t think so.

    What of the other businesses in MC that are in compliance with zoning? I can’t imagine that they think it’s OK for the City to allow ViCor to violate the law. What does that say to other businesses looking to move into MC? They MAY or MAY NOT have to abide by the law and the City Ordinances? No wonder businesses don’t give us a second look. Would you? Would you move into a City wondering if you have to obey the law or maybe they’ll look the other way? What if there’s a change in the Mayor and that Mayor does his job and supports the enforcement of the law? What then? As a citizen I have to obey the law or there are consequences. Why is ViCor special and above the law?

    • Avatar

      Clever...Username.....BACKWARDS Reply Report comment

      May 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      I wouldnt start a business knowing you live there either……

    • Avatar

      anonymous Reply Report comment

      June 1, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Mary I hope they do install the oxidizer, but no smells leaveing your property is not reality. Do you own anything with a gas motor, grill, fire pit or even a large flower garden. If someone moved in next door with asthma, allergys or or other medical problems and complained that your smells are leaving your property would you live by the same rules you expect from ViCor. None of us live under a bubble so some tolerance has to be expected from all citizens. All people are different and have levels of tolerance that vary greatly. I have lived by ViCor for twenty years and it doesn’t bother me but thats just me. I would like the same equipment installed here. Less smell is always better but if it doesn’t happen I won’t let that stop me from enjoying my life and being happy.

  22. Avatar

    sad Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Yes, all this is minor, we need to worry about the big things in the city, like snow parking tickets, seat belt violations, and 2 hour parking down town.
    These are the things that float the bloated city budget.

  23. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Its funny how codes are so strongly enforced for some and for others they just look the other way. The ordinance is there to be enforced. If thats the case than why should any of us obey them if vi cor cant.?

  24. Avatar

    South Carolina Reply Report comment

    May 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I’ve lived by the Vi-Cor plant on South Carolina most of my life and have gotten used to the smell. They can to. I’m about to make a stop bitchin about little shit campaign.

    • Avatar

      *Larry* Reply Report comment

      May 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      To: South Carolina – you have sh*t for brains – that’s for sure. Obviously you work for VI-COR or a family member does.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      May 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      I wonder if our mayor wrote that.