Keota Fire Clean-up Controversy

By Mark Geary, Reporter

KEOTA, Iowa – A fire destroyed multiple businesses in Keota back in December. Cleaning up the mess after that kind of a disaster can often take months.

Bill Miller had all the rubble removed less than three weeks after fire burned his buildings to the ground.

Landfill fees cost him $31,000 because the debris contained asbestos.

Then, the landfill board slashed its rate after Miller pointed out it was higher than many other similar sites...but the group refused to refund any of his money.

"The tipping fees here at the landfill have been 150 dollars for years. We've never really had a discussion about it," chairman of the SEMCO Landfill Board Dick Reed said.

Miller paid that $150 per ton fee, but soon realized the rate was unfair compared to other landfills.

When he complained, the board dropped the price down to 65 bucks for all future customers, but refused to reimburse him.

"We couldn't see, at the time, how we could lower the tipping fees for one individual because that wouldn't be fair and equitable to everyone else," Reed said.

Miller said, "It's like kicking a person when he's down, stabbed in the back, whatever you want to say."

Reed said, "I one-hundred percent see how it's a raw deal for him."

Even though the board had sympathy for Miller, members worried how other customers would react.

"As soon as you open up the gate and say, 'I'm going to help you out,' the next fella is going to say, 'How about me?'" Reed said.

So, now the board lies stuck between trying to help a guy out and trying to be fair to everyone else.

"I hope they see it really is the right thing to do," Miller said.

The landfill board meets Wednesday, March 16. At that meeting, members will discuss whether to make that lower rate retroactive for Miller and possibly others.
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