Becker County commissioners are pondering a $2.8 million proposal that would more than double the size of the county’s 12,000-square-foot recycling building at the transfer station.
Not all of that would be county money. A $750,000 state grant for the building and a $250,000 state grant for a specialized baler would soften the blow, so the county cost would be about $1.8 million.
The larger building would include space and specialized equipment for a regional mattress shredding and recycling operation, and provide more unloading space for cardboard, for baling recyclables, for storing bales and would tie into the existing conveyor belt system to move recyclables around the building. The main expansion area would be 13,500 square feet.
The $750,000 state grant is for the regional mattress recycling operation, since mattresses can’t be burned in waste incinerators and are generally considered a problem at landfills, said Environmental Services Director Steve Skoog.
The overall cost also includes a fire suppression sprinkler system.
The county could cut about $510,000 off that total cost by not including an alternate, 6,000-square-foot storage area, that would be used as a sorting area for commingled recyclables, and a receiving area for appliances and electronic waste.
But Skoog said it will be put to good use if approved.
“Cardboard could be direct-dumped and then fed onto the conveyor belts, and with a better baler, we could get bale weights up, saving on shipping costs,” Skoog said.
The overall recycling building expansion is needed in part because paper products and some other types of recyclables lose their value if they get wet, and under the existing setup it can be challenging to keep them dry, Skoog said.
“There’s not enough capacity at times to get everything in the building prior to processing,” he told county commissioners during a work session following the County Board meeting on Tuesday. “We do need more storage capacity.”
The existing baler was purchased in 2012, and the volume through the recycling center has tripled since then, Skoog said.
The proposal also includes adding a full-time employee position at the recycling center. “There’s truly a need for some kind of working supervisor out there,” said Becker County Administrator Mike Brethorst.
It was a non-voting work session, but in general commissioners Larry Knutson and Richard Vareberg seemed supportive of the expansion idea, Commissioner Ben Grimsley seemed skeptical, and commissioners Barry Nelson and John Okeson wanted to make sure the new Highway Department building, which has been in the works for several years, gets priority over the recycling center.
The seeds of possible compromise were planted when Knutson, not usually a big bonding fan, said he was open to the idea of floating a bond to help pay for the projects.
Brethorst noted that the county could, for example, bond for $4.6 million at 1.5% interest, paying it back at $350,000 a year over 15 years.
The county could consolidate the $1.8 million remaining in an older county bond into the new bond at a lower interest rate, he added.
The idea of bonding and pursuing both the highway and recycling building projects at the same time might be worth pursuing, Nelson said. “We are so lucky, we are in such good financial shape,” he said.