Brooktree to benefit from City of Owatonna's settlement with DuPont - Owatonna MN: News

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Brooktree to benefit from City of Owatonna's settlement with DuPont

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Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013 6:00 pm | Updated: 3:49 pm, Fri Jul 12, 2013.

OWATONNA — More than two years after spraying a herbicide at Brooktree Golf Course that resulted in damage to hundreds of trees, the City of Owatonna has approved the signing of a settlement agreement with the herbicide’s manufacturer.

On Tuesday night, the Owatonna City Council unanimously approved the agreement between the city and DuPont, maker of the chemical Imprelis. The settlement amounts to more than $1.85 million in damages awarded to the city.

“It feels good. It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it,” said Owatonna Parks Director and Brooktree Superintendent Rick Smith.

Staff at the golf course sprayed Imprelis, which had been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, in May 2011. The herbicide was designed to kill broad leaf weeds, which it did. But after spraying the course, many evergreen trees began to show damage and eventually die.

The city contacted DuPont about the problem, and the company sent a tree arborist to examine the trees in October 2011. After inspecting the course, DuPont’s arborist determined a total of 203 trees had been damaged by Imprelis. Based on that figure, DuPont offered the city a settlement of $640,000.

Rather than accept DuPont’s offer, city officials elected to seek a second opinion and hired their own arborist to examine the course. A second examination was done in September and October of last year. The city’s arborist determined an additional 565 trees had been damaged.

“It was a great decision on (City Attorney) Mark Walbran’s and (City Administrator) Kris Busse’s part to seek that second opinion from a tree arborist up in the Twin Cities. That really helped us out,” Smith said.

Busse and Smith said the goal is to use all the money to make improvements at Brooktree, which includes the replacing of hundreds of trees on the course. A steering committee of five people, including Smith, two members of the Parks and Recreation Board and members of the Brooktree Golf Association Board, has been formed to make a recommendation to the council on what to do with the money.

“We’re going to take a look at the total amount of money. First and foremost, we want to replace the trees,” Smith said. “After that, we’ll assess some of the needs of Brooktree. Looking back over the three or four years, we had flood damage that occurred and winter storm damage in May that caused us to lose some trees. Also, due to budget cuts, our (Capital Improvement Plan) program was cut. We’re just trying to catch up on a few of those things.”

Busse agreed that the goal is to use all the money at Brooktree to provide for improvements on the course.

“This is to compensate the city for a loss, a big loss of trees at the golf course, so that’s where the investment is going to go to take care of that,” Busse said. “(The steering committee) will be giving recommendations to the council on how that money should be allocated. The loss occurred at Brooktree, and we want to address that loss. It’s all going to stay at Brooktree. That’s the indication that I’m getting.”

Smith said a study session to discuss a plan for using the funds will likely occur later this summer and the council will meet at Brooktree to discuss the issue.

DuPont is responsible for covering the costs and removing 339 specified trees from the course that were deemed a complete loss. A portion of the settlement, $51,000, will go toward tree maintenance for replacement trees. A additional $141,183 will be used to purchase tree care for 426 trees remaining on the property.

Those 426 trees are under warranty, meaning that if they continue to decline to the point where they cannot be saved, DuPont would pay for their removal and replacement.

“They gave us money to care for the trees with proper water and proper fertilizing and that type of thing,” Smith said. “We still have an option if, say, next spring, for instance, the tree doesn’t look like it’s going to make it. We can go back to DuPont and they can come back out and reassess the tree.”

A DuPont spokesperson referred questions to the company’s website.

According to DuPont’s quarterly earnings report, as of March 31, total charges against DuPont for Imprelis had reached $785 million. The report goes on to say that charges could range as high as $900 million.

Walbran informed the council that there is currently a multi-state class action lawsuit against DuPont that would have a longer warranty. If the filing of the lawsuit is successful, the city would benefit from the longer warranty, which extends to May 31, 2015.

According to DuPont’s website, a preliminary settlement has been reached in the case, which is being heard in federal court in Pennsylvania.

Tree removal will likely begin in the fall, Smith said. Trees couldn’t be removed until an agreement had been signed. Walbran informed the council that the money should be available in about a month.

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on Twitter.com@OPPalstrain

© 2014 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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2 comments:

  • Soitgoes posted at 7:31 am on Sat, Jul 6, 2013.

    Soitgoes Posts: 732

    You mean because money that was intended for the ball diamonds has never been diverted elsewhere? Or, any other scenario for that matter? The powers that be pretty much spend when and where they want.

    If nothing else, someone's budget has already been severely dinged to clean up the golf course from the floods. That "someone" has some right to expect reimbursement. Looks like a prime opportunity for that to happen.

     
  • tator posted at 7:09 am on Sat, Jul 6, 2013.

    tator Posts: 56

    all that money better go to the course because it does need it.I heard a rumor that corky was trying to get his hands on the money to try to improve his ball diamonds and parks.that better not happen.

     

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