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Polo City Council rejects bees by 4-3 vote

After nearly a year of sometimes heated discussions, Polo beekeeper Mike Scholl lost his bid May 5 to raise honey bee queens in small hives outside his home.

By a 4-3 vote the city council rejected an ordinance that would have allowed Scholl to maintain small hives called nucs at his home at 110 N. Barber Ave. from Sept. 15 to March 15 each year.

Mayor Doug Knapp cast the deciding no vote after the city council reached an impasse with a 3-3 tie.

Voting against the measure were aldermen Louise Hall, Cheryl Galor, and Randy Schoon, while aldermen Troy Boothe, David Ackeberg, and Matt Mekeel voted in favor of it.

After the meeting Knapp said he did not oppose the nucs, but felt most residents were against raising bees inside the city.

"The majority of the people who contacted me and who I have had discussions with indicated that they're not interested in having them in the city limits," Knapp said. "I'm not really opposed to them myself but I'm here to represent the people."

Polo ordinances prohibit beekeeping within the city limits. Scholl approached the city council last summer to have the nucs for six months of the year.

Last August the council granted his request on a limited, trial basis. Scholl returned to the city council this spring to request an extension.

Scholl's request last year was discussed at several meetings before the council approved it over opposition from Hall and Galor, who voiced safety concerns that neighbors, especially small children, might get stung by Scholl's bees.

At the previous meetings, Scholl said honey bees, unlike wasps and hornets, are quite docile and unlikely to sting unless they are threatened in their hives. 

In addition, Scholl said the bees are dormant and inactive during the colder months. He said queens are fragile and require close observation and care during their formative weeks. 

Once they matured, he said, the queens would be transferred to hives he maintains at various location outside of town.

Several experts and those experienced with honey bees verified Scholl's comments over the span of several meetings last year.

Scholl said little at Monday's meeting, but his son, former Polo Mayor Mark Scholl, read a letter his father had written to the council.

The letter addressed several issues brought up at the April 21 city council meeting, which Scholl did not attend.

Schoon, Hall, and Galor said at the meeting that Scholl was keeping bees on his property and in his garage past the March 15 deadline.

Hall also complained that Scholl was burning honeycombs on his property in violation of city ordinances.

In the letter, Scholl said all of his bees died because of the brutal winter and only the empty nuc boxes were stored in his garage. No bees in the nucs in his garage.

No aldermen came to inspect his property at any time to see if he was indeed keeping bees there, the letter read.

One finally came at Scholl's request and no bees were found.

Scholl said in the letter that he got permission from the city to burn the honeycombs before he did it.

"Most disappointing were the comments by some city officials against my integrity and character based on their speculation," the letter read in part. "I deserve an apology from the city officials who made those remarks."

Hall had referred to Scholl as "dishonest" at the April 21 meeting, and Schoon said he had "duped" the city council.

Scholl did not get the apology he asked for. 

Hall said neighbors told her they saw bees buzzing around Scholl's garage windows.

Laurie Church, who lives across the street from Scholl and has voiced opposition to his bees from the start, reinterated her disapproval.

"I have not purchased property to live next to bees," she said.

However, another neighbor Mark Ellis, came to Scholl's defense.

"If I have a box in my garage that says TNT, am I the Unibomber?" Ellis said. "Does beer boxes in someone's garage mean they're an alcoholic?"

Hall also took City Clerk Susie Corbitt to task for giving Scholl permission to burn the honeycombs.

Corbitt said she believed the honeycombs were no different than yard waste which can legally be burned within the city limits.

Ackeberg called for ending the discussion and taking the vote.

"We've beat this thing to death," he said.

Scholl's complete letter to the city council appears on A10.

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