Officials from the state, Marshall County, and a private disposal company held a news conference today to announce the start of a program to clean up there-quarters of a million discarded tires from a dumpsite near the small town of Rhodes. But local folks say it’s long overdue and should never have been allowed in the first place. Mayor Danny Clement says the dump’s been there for about ten years and he estimates the total’s closer to a million and-a-half tires. He says when it catches on fire you can’t put it out — and a couple years ago the pile did catch fire, and burned for days. He says oil runs out of the dump, too, and flows into a local creek. The mayor says when Bee-Rite began to haul them in, the site was only supposed to be for temporary storage, before the tires were ground up and hauled to Mason City to be burned in the cement plant there. Once they quit taking tires away, the town tried to prevent them from bringing in any more, but he says the D.N.R. told them they had no control over it. The community took its case to the state supreme court, and after five years it ruled Rhodes could halt the addition of tires to the dumpsite — but “by that time they were there,” he says. Now the taxpayers are paying for the cleanup, Mayor Clement points out. He says the company was paid two-dollars for each car tire it collected, and five dollars for truck tires, but didn’t use that money to dispose of the tires. The D.N.R. and a new company, Greenman Technologies, will haul the tires away as part of the cleanup plan unveiled today. They’ll grind them up for fuel and playground surfacing materials.