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County shoots for $250K grant to sort demo debris

There are some salvageable items among the construction debris that is dumped into the demolition landfill at the Becker County Transfer Station, and if funding comes together, the public will get a crack at those useable items.

"We'd like to develop some capacity at our facility to separate co-mingled materials," Becker County Environmental Services Director Steve Skoog told the County Board Tuesday. "Over time we could get more of a reuse program going," he added.

Typical materials suitable for reuse include plumbing fixtures, doors, cabinets, windows, carpet, brick, light fixtures, ceiling and floor tiles, wood, HVAC equipment, and decorative items like fireplaces and stonework.

To better process mixed demo and garbage loads, Becker County will seek up to $250,000 in state Environmental Assistance grant funds, requiring a 25 percent county match ($83,000) in cash or in-kind labor.

"Over the past years there has been an increase of mixed loads of building demolition materials mixed with trash brought into the transfer station," Skoog said in his report to the board. "Because the loads are mixed, all of the waste material is currently delivered to the Fargo landfill."

To discourage mixed demo and municipal solid waste being brought to the transfer station, the tipping fee was hiked from $10 per cubic yard to $25 per cubic yard—but it didn't have much impact, Skoog said.

If Becker County gets the state grant, the money will be used to build a fabric-covered hoop building and buy a mini-excavator, a scrap compactor and containers to sort this waste stream, Skoog said in his report.

After sorting, the demolition materials would be recycled or go into the county demo landfill. The municipal solid waste would be turned into steam power at the Perham Resource Recovery Facility and non-demo recyclables would be processed in the county's new recycling facility.

"The (demo-sorting) facility would be located near the new material recovery facility and inmate labor would be utilized to hand-sort some of the materials," Skoog said.

More than 92 tons of this mixed demolition and municipal solid waste material was received at the county transfer station last year, generating about $239,000 in tipping fees.

Commissioners authorized Skoog to apply for the Environmental Assistance Grant. The state has $2 million available for outstate Minnesota.

In the meanwhile, the county agreed to buy a used scrap metal compactor from Broadway Welding for $7,500 and spend another $4,500 to build a new loading dock, buy steel for a new floor in the compactor box and wire the unit. Currently, the loose waste metal is placed in 10-cubic-yard containers and transported to the transfer station with a forklift or compactor truck.

In other action, the county board:

-- Supported two census tracts - the northern part of Detroit Lakes and the Ponsford-Pine Point area—eligible for a new federal Opportunity Zone designation. The two tracks are among the 250 lowest-income census tracts in Minnesota and are the county's top two priorities, following discussions with the city of Detroit Lakes, the West Central Initiative Foundation and the Headwaters Regional Development Commission.

The Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in its recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, to spur long-term investment in low-income areas. It is administered by the state.

The city has identified 19 industrial sites suitable for the program, which uses federal tax credits to spur investment.

-- Heard an update on plans for the new Cormorant Swimming Beach located on County Road 5 on Middle Cormorant Lake. The county-owned beach will have three swimming area marked with bouys, a parking area, a picnic shelter, and numerous rain gardens, native plantings and coir logs along the beach. The design is intended to discourage visitors by boat.

-- Approved a plan to improve the highway lighting system in Audubon at the intersections of Highway 10 and county roads 11 and 13. The state will pay half the estimated $61,000 cost, with the other half paid by the city and the county. County Highway Engineer Jim Olson was authorized to spend up to $7,500 on a consultant to provide the design documents, coordination and bidding assistance for the project.

-- Commissioners gave a positive response to a proposal by Becker County Museum Director Becky Mitchell for possible county funding for a new oral history project at the museum. Commissioners said they were receptive to funding five or 10 extra staff hours per week at the museum to help pay for the Living History proposal. The project would likely also include a book on the oral histories, Mitchell said.

The museum will also try for state bonding funds for a new museum building. State Sen. Kent Eken will champion the bill. "It's really a long shot to try for bond money this year, but you never know what could happen," Mitchell said. "Anything is significant to us and helps our bottom line."

She said Eken believes the project would have a better chance at being funded in 2020, "but we need to be in a new building by then, if at all possible, because of the state of our building," Mitchell said.

The county agreed to serve as financial agent for any state bonding money received for the museum project.