Garlic Mustard on Residents' Minds

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Kevin Murphy

TOWN OF MIDDLETON–In prior annual electors’ meetings, Town of Middleton residents discussed; runway expansion at the city of Middleton’s airport; buying land for a storm water pond and developing a subdivision near the town hall.

Last week, garlic mustard was the main topic residents discussed or, precisely the refusal of garbage collectors to haul away the noxious weed residents had pulled from their properties.

John Haverberg, a Plan Commission member and a resident for 47 years, said he and other neighbors pull garlic mustard from their properties, including filling 40 garbage bags last year.

In the past, bagged garlic mustard was hauled away by the town’s contract garbage collector, Advanced Disposal. Earlier this year, it was acquired by Waste Management, Inc. which no longer accepts the plant.

“Now, we’ve going to have to figure out what to do with this species being bagged up…and so I’d like some discussion on how we’d like to proceed,” Haverberg said.

Many residents have called town hall about the change which will be discussed at a Public Works and Town Services Committee meeting, said Town Chair Cynthia Richson.

The problem is Waste Management’s transfer point is near the University of Wisconsin Arboretum where noxious weeds aren’t allowed, said Town of Middleton Treasurer Megan Hughes. The town also won’t accept noxious weeds at its compost shed, and the while the Dane County Landfill will take bagged noxious weeds, residents weren’t happy with making that approximately 40-mile round trip.

Waste Management’s contract will expire at the end of the year and new contracts will have to have a noxious weed provision going forward, Hughes said.

“They followed everything from Advanced Disposal’s contract except that one piece,” said Town Clerk Barbara Roesslein. 

“If (Waste Management) assumed the contract then it’s still there,” said Board Supervisor Richard Oberle.

Richson referred the matter to Town Attorney Eileen Brownlee to see if the town can deduct the cost of garlic mustard disposal from the payments made to Waste Management.

Garlic mustard is a prolific weed, and a pickup truck load would not be enough to haul away all that is pulled in his subdivision, Haverberg said.

“I’m sure there are other areas of the town that are also dealing with this,” he said.

Haverberg suggested that town hall be used as a transfer point where residents could bring bagged garlic mustard and the town could truck it to the county landfill.

“But garlic mustard is growing right now, and in a few weeks, it will start flowering and then it isn’t worth pulling because it will seed out,” he said.

Roesslein said space behind town hall is limited and staff hasn’t come up with an immediate solution. The City of Middleton’s compost facility on CTH Q also won’t accept noxious weeds.

Bagged garlic mustard can be stored for a few months, Haverberg said while the town comes up with a reasonable solution.

“You can put it in your salads, that’s why it was brought to this country,” he said.

The possible sale of the Eastman property, an 80-acre parcel the town owns east of Pioneer Rd., was asked about. However, Town Chair Cynthia Richson said that the town board has only discussed that topic in closed session which prevented her from talking about whether the town has received any purchase offers on the property.

“I would like to assure all the listeners on this call that the direct sale or purchase or property is one of the powers of the electors and the town cannot sell real estate without elector approval. So, when there is anything to do or report, we will do it publicly,” Richson said.

Since property sale prices are typically arrived at through negotiations, state statutes allow municipalities to discuss terms in closed sessions because negotiations with one interested party may have an unwanted effect on what another party would pay, explained Town Attorney Eileen Brownlee.

Newly appointed Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett addressed the residents saying that he will emphasize training that defuses police-public confrontations, and education of broader cultural differences to decrease bias.

 “I am a master defensive tactics instructor…de-escalation training is number one on my list. Communications is the most important part of our job, our ability to communicate is fundamental and use of force is the last resort,” Barrett said.

Barrett is a former Dane County deputy and a former Sun Prairie police officer. He is a Wisconsin State Fair Park law enforcement office and is the police sciences faculty director at Madison College. He takes office on May 9, a day after Sheriff David Mahoney’s resignation date.

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