06/08/2018 A Voice From the Gallery


He was like a cock who thought the sun has risen to hear him crow.

George Eliot

“…That’s your problem…” retorted Spirit Lake City Administrator/City Attorney Gregg Owens.  Thus began the Friday, June 1, 2018, conversation between Spirit Lake city taxpayers and City Administrator Gregg Owens regarding the big blue Petri dishes the city dropped off  last week.

My husband Peter and I visited the Spirit Lake City offices on Friday, June 1, 2018,  to speak with City Administrator Owens concerning the garbage can situation after Peter had spoken to a city councilor and realized the city councilor was no more informed that we were.  We had received no letter of information on the substantive change in the way garbage was going to be handled with our water bill.  Our first knowledge was a telephone call telling us we had a big blue Petri dish (my term) with sail boats sitting at the end of our driveway.

When we stopped by the city offices on that Friday we asked to speak with Mr. Owens, he was on the telephone so we sat down to wait until he was free.  As we waited the staff in the city offices received numerous telephone calls, all with questions on the blue garbage cans recently deposited.  Judging from the responses by the staff, the questions ranged from type of materials to be place in the containers, placement on the curb, storage, and etc.

Finally Mr. Owens ended his telephone conversation and graced us with his presence.  When Peter explained our concerns on garbage placement on Sunday, pick up on Monday which presented the problem leaving the empty garbage can at the curb until we returned in a week or two weeks.  Mr. Owens gracelessly responded, “…that’s your problem…have your neighbor roll it back to your house…it is your responsibility…”

Since Peter had a meeting, we left and I returned alone for information.  I asked the clerk for a copy of the ordinance involving the change in garbage handling.  My request was still hanging in the air, when City Administrator Owen came rippin’ outta his office like he OD’d on his high colonic meds that morning, someone forgot to turn off the irrigation pumps and the only comfort station was the clerk’s counter!  Mr. Owens interrupted the clerk stating, “…the ordinance was not signed and he could not give me a copy…” and he abruptly returned to his office.  I asked the clerk where or how many of the blue garbage cans were purchased?  Bam! Here come da man wit da trots on the run stating, “… You (indicating me) can make a records request and at a cost of $10…the minutes are on-line” turned on his heel and returned to his office.  I asked the clerk about roll-off containers, enter Mad Dash Owens (and I don’t mean Jesse) streaming back into the conversation.  Why folks with all that to-ing and fro-ing from his office, I feared ol’ City Administrator Owens was going to do serious damage to his anal sphincter.  By this time I had the basic research information I needed, so I left.

Folks you were gifted with a brochure extolling all the benefits of the super-dooper single operator mobile armed garbage catapult.  Cost for the New Way Sidewinder/Peterbilt chassis per City Administrator Gregg Owens–$246,707.00, approximate cost of 2500 Blue Garbage cans $25 each for a net cost of $62,500.00, add $2-$5 for Logo printing plus shipping, handling, bond interest (if needed) and of course attorney fees for the drawing and filing of the resolution.

Let’s compare:

PRO – One operator                                 

CONTwo jobs lost

PRO – Safety-operator does not hang off truck back  

CON – Driver watching three camera’s (rear, left side & dump arm) driving distracted on residential streets.

PRO – Same green bag contraband rules

CON – Who is the bad garbage monitor- the driver watching road and cameras.

PRO – Clean-sanitary

CON – Great Petri-dish, ever put liquids or spoiled food in a sealed baggie and set it in the sun?

PRO – Bug proof

CON –  There is no significant rubber gasket on the  lid or the garbage can so enter flies, ants, maggots, gnats and the occasional code enforcement officer, Inspector Nit-pick-finder and louse storage next to your house—does garbage can ‘blue’ match your decor?

PRO – City Property

CON – You cannot put your name on the big blue Petri dish so it makes it easier to steal when the cross-town neighbor loses or damages his Great Blue Petri-Dish.

PRO – Clear street parking

CON – The 84,000 pound mobile armed garbage catapult vehicle must make two trips down all city streets.

PRO – Save payroll costs

CON – Implementation of  a street maintenance tax at around $1- $2 per frontage foot for those street repairs resulting in the two trips per week of  84,000 pounds per week instead of the approximate present single trip per week of 51,000 pounds per week.

PRO – Increase income from parking tickets.

CON – Plowing and towing tickets to taxpayers!

PRO – Free garbage cans.

CON – If lost, stolen or damaged $50+/- resident cost.

And lest we forget, the City Attorney Conflict

PRO:  City Attorney fees for each and every amendment to the resolutions/ordinance filed to fix City Administrator errors and omissions to the Great Garbage Debacle.

  CON:  Increase in Taxes for Taxpayers, Resident and Non-resident!


Contact your city council

ASK Councilman Jerry Harbst, Councilman Kevin Bice, Councilman Rodney James, Councilman Wes Farmer, Councilwoman Donna Fisher, OR City Administrator Gregg Owens—-WHY?