Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Morningstar Coffee Appeal

On November 6, Morningstar Coffee appealed four different administrative citations issued by Minneapolis Environmental Management: two $400 fines issued in August and fines worth $800 and $1,600 in September and October.

Environmental Management Supervisor Dan Huff and Inspector Anne Stahn did a great job of laying out facts and complaints underlying the citations. Jose Vido, owner of Morningstar, presented three main arguments against the fines: 1) he was not given enough time to come into compliance, 2) the odor is not that bad, and not very many people are bothered by it and 3) the neighborhood is interested in redeveloping the piece of land on which his business sits as part of the Bystrom Brothers site. I also spoke, to share the breadth and intensity of concern among residents of west Seward about the negative impacts Morningstar has created, and to rebut Mr. Vido's three defenses. Staff pointed out that the violation orders were written in January of 2007, giving the company more than 6 months to comply before the first fines were written.

The Hearing Officer has returned his decision, which is mixed. First, he found for the City on the factual basis of the citations - Dan and Anne convincingly made the case that the fines were appropriate. Morningstar is required to pay the two $400 fines from August within 30 days.

However, the $800 and $1,600 fines from September and October have been waived, with the following caveats:

1. Morningstar will have to pay both fines (for a total of $2,400) if not in full compliance (afterburner fully operational and no odor) within 60 days.

2. The $1,600 citation will come back into effect if Morningstar receives another odor violation within a year.

Our office and Environmental Management staff are disappointed by the 60 days given by the Hearing Officer for Morningstar to come into compliance. In my opinion, Mr. Vido neither needs nor deserves more time to come into compliance, and I fear that he will use this extra time to continue to degrade quality of life in west Seward until early next year.

On the other hand, I believe that the Hearing Officer's decision to leave the $1,600 citation dangling over the company for the next year will help the community hold it accountable. I have confirmed with Dan Huff that the next fine his department writes to Morningstar will be worth $2,000. Those two fines taken together will provide a sizeable financial incentive of $3,600 for Mr. Vido to use the afterburner for every roast, once it is fully operational.

Lastly, I'd like to give the following update on the company's progress on installing the afterburner. It is fully installed and is connected to gas lines. The gas meter is undersized, and must be replaced by Centerpoint Energy in order for the afterburner to burn hot enough to work properly. City staff have confirmed that Centerpoint is aware that this work must be done, and are scheduled to visit Morningstar within the next few weeks.

Our office will continue to keep the pressure on this company to do the right thing and be a good neighbor. Continued attention from the community will be essential to hold Mr. Vido accountable next year.


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