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Bonding bill may include new BC waste station

When the Minnesota Legislature presents its final bonding bill to Gov. Tim Pawlenty this spring, Becker County could have a vested interest in not one, but two potential capital investment projects currently on the table.

The proposal that will be of most interest, according to County Environmental Services Officer Steve Skoog, is funding for the design of a new solid waste transfer station.

The design would also incorporate plans for an office building and a materials recovery facility (MRF), Skoog said.

"There would be three separate buildings developed on the site," he added.

Funding was included in both the House capital investment bill ($1.8 million) and the Senate bill ($500,000), Skoog noted.

He was in St. Paul a few weeks ago, meeting with legislators and other state officials to make sure that funding for the transfer station was included in not only the House and Senate bills, but the governor's plan as well, Skoog said.

In his testimony before the legislators, Skoog outlined several goals that the county would hope to achieve in updating its current solid waste handling systems.

Among those goals were:

• To find a stable, long term solution for the county's municipal solid waste -- a goal that will begin to be realized through the formation of the new Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority, in conjunction with Otter Tail, Todd and Wadena counties.

• Increasing the collection of recyclable commodities through the county's rural recycling program. This will be accomplished by replacing the current recycling shed collection points with dumpsters that will increase collection capacity as well as convenience of use for rural residents, while reducing collection costs.

• Developing rural waste collection sites in remote areas of the county that currently have minimal waste disposal options. This would help preserve the natural environment and promote education regarding better ways to handle waste through recycling, source reduction, etc.

• Expanding recycling opportunities in public places, through cooperation with other local units of government and businesses. This would increase the volume of commodities being recycled and serve as an educational venue to promote recycling.

• Expand the county's commercial and industrial waste audits, to promote the implementation of recycling programs in the workplace. Recent successes include not only the Becker County Courthouse, where the solid waste output was decreased by half, but also St. Mary's Innovis Health, the White Earth Tribal Council and all grade levels of local schools.

• Development of a source-separated organics composting program.

If the new transfer station, office building and MRF are built, Skoog noted, it would also allow the county to expand its household hazardous waste program. Currently, the HHW facility on the transfer station site is only open on a seasonal basis, one day a week during the spring, summer and fall.

The HHW program would be incorporated into the new office facility at the transfer station, allowing it to be open five days a week during regular county office hours, Skoog said.

Through its participation in the Prairie Lakes MSW Authority, Skoog said, the county will also be impacted by another funding proposal, to build a materials recovery facility at the Perham incinerator plant.

Though the proposal was made by the City of Perham and Otter Tail County, one of the first projects targeted by the new joint powers board is the acquisition of the incinerator from the city.

The MRF proposed to be constructed at the incinerator site would differ from the county MRF proposal, Skoog said, because the facility to be constructed at the transfer station would be a "clean" MRF, while the one proposed at the incinerator site would be a "dirty" MRF.

A "dirty" MRF, Skoog explained, would accept and separate all types of solid waste, removing from the waste stream any materials that could not be safely incinerated, as well as those that could be recycled.

By contrast, a "clean" MRF would only accept unsorted, recycled materials, for separation into marketable recycled commodities.

If a MRF is installed at the transfer station, it would also give the county a centralized collection point for recyclables, Skoog noted.

The facilities available at MinnKota Recycling are not large enough to meet the county's needs, he explained.

The new MRF would also employ "up to 10 people" for the sorting and bailing of the commodities, Skoog added.

"There's a lot of positives to it if we could make it happen," he said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454