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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board has approved Saturday only hours at the collection sites as well as a request for a $1 million referendum question on the fall ballot that would be recurring for five years.
The new Saturday only hours will go into effect June 1, said Morgan Gerk, director of the solid waste and recycling division, at the solid waste and recycling board’s May 12 meeting.
Everyone on the board is disappointed about closing the collection sites on Wednesdays, “but we need to get the expenses under control,” said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and chair of the solid waste and recycling board.
Currently solid waste and recycling is operating an alternative business model with the satellite collection sites closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and not enough people to work at all of the sites.
On June 1, with the Saturday only hours, the transfer station and public drop-off hours will return to their normal times, Gerk said.
Collection sites are located in Boyceville, Colfax, Elk Mound, Connorsville, Ridgeland, Downsville and Rock Creek.
Starting June 1, the transfer station west of Menomonie on state Highway 29 will be open for public drop-off hours Mondays from 6 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
The transfer station’s commercial hours will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
The collection sites will be open on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board unanimously approved the changes in hours of operation.
A proposed referendum question on the fall ballot would ask voters to approve $1 million per year for five years to fund capital improvements for solid waste and recycling, Gerk said.
The referendum request will go to the Dunn County Board’s Planning, Resources and Development committee on May 26 for consideration, and if the PR&D committee approves it, the request will go to the executive committee for consideration on June 10 and to the Dunn County Board for the June 17 meeting.
The solid waste and recycling division has a $330,000 deficit this year and hopes to borrow the money from the county’s general fund.
The county board’s executive committee approved forwarding the $330,000 request at the May 13 meeting for consideration at the county board’s May 20 meeting.
A referendum question will require outreach to the county’s residents to communicate the reasons so residents have knowledge on which to base a decision, Gerk said.
Steve Rasmussen, a member of the SW&R board, asked if the $5 million would be limited to capital improvements or if it could also be used for operational expenses.
The most significant need is for capital improvements, said Keith Strey, Dunn County’s chief financial officer.
Capital improvements for facilities and equipment will cost $10 million to $12 million, and normal revenue sources should be used for operating expenses, he said.
If the referendum is approved, could the money be used to offset potential borrowing by the county for a new facility, so that instead of borrowing $10 million to $12 million, the amount borrowed would be $7 million or $8 million? Rasmussen asked.
“Yes,” Strey said. “It would be like a down payment toward new facilities.”
If the referendum is approved, it will show the bond market that voters stand behind the solid waste and recycling program, he said.
While most of the referendum money could be saved for new facilities, using some of it for other capital expenses would help reduce the budget by taking the capital expenses out, said Dave Bartlett, chair of the Dunn County Board.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board also has cancelled the Clean Sweep event this year for collecting hazardous materials.
Dunn County had a record Clean Sweep event last year, and the cost was $60,000, Gerk said.
This year, solid waste and recycling had to issue requests for proposals for a new vendor for the Clean Sweep event, and the cost came back at $95,000, he said.
Dunn County receives a grant from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for a portion of the Clean Sweep program.
Gerk said he had asked DATCP officials if it would be possible to put the grant money toward the disposal of hazardous materials already collected at the collection sites and was told it could be used for that.
Canceling the Clean Sweep event will allow $70,000 to be put back in the 2020 solid waste and recycling budget, and the remaining $25,000 can be used to dispose of chemicals and pressurized cylinders and tanks that have been found at the collection sites, Gerk said.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board unanimously approved canceling the Clean Sweep event for this year.