If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Editor’s note: LeAnn R. Ralph serves as a supervisor on the Otter Creek Town Board.
By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Now that the Village of Colfax and the Towns of Grant, Otter Creek and Tainter have withdrawn from Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling, the municipalities have formed a committee to oversee the Colfax collection site.
Representatives from each of the municipalities met August 18 at the Colfax fire station.
Representatives from the Town of Colfax also attended the meeting, although it was not clear from the discussion whether the Town of Colfax had already withdrawn or intended to withdraw or were just there for information.
The idea is for the Village of Colfax to be the Responsible Unit and to operate the Colfax solid waste and recycling collection site with a committee made up of representation from each municipality that joins the RU, either the chair or someone appointed by the chair, said Scott Gunnufson, Colfax village president.
The Colfax collection site is owned by the Village of Colfax and is leased to Dunn County.
Each municipality in Wisconsin is required by the state Department of Natural Resources to be a Responsible Unit for recycling or to be a member of another RU.
Most municipalities in Dunn County currently are members of the Dunn County RU.
The Colfax Village Board approved withdrawing from Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling and forming a Responsible Unit at the August 10 meeting, and the other municipalities held meetings that same week to make their own decisions.
Dunn County gave the municipalities a deadline of August 19 to indicate whether they planned to withdraw from the county program.
Under the agreement with Dunn County, municipalities must give 120 days of notice that they are planning to withdraw.
The DNR has established a deadline of October 1 to submit application materials to become a Responsible Unit.
After Colfax becomes the Responsible Unit, the village will begin operating the Colfax solid waste and recycling collection site as of January 1.
Contracts or agreements with each of the municipalities intending to join the Colfax RU will need to be included with the application submitted to the DNR that is due by October 1, said Lynn Niggemann, administrator-clerk-treasurer for the Village of Colfax.
At issue is a sizable increase in Dunn County’s solid waste and recycling per capita fee for 2021. The per capita fee this year is $23, but the fee is expected to increase to anywhere from $60 to $80 per person next year.
The increase in the per capita is because the bottom has dropped out of the recycling market. For decades, the Dunn County per capita fee for solid waste and recycling was subsidized by the sale of recyclable materials.
The increase in the per capita in the $80 range would result in an increase in budgets of the municipalities anywhere from about a $22,000 increase for the Town of Grant to about a $138,000 increase for the Town of Tainter.
Municipalities in Wisconsin are under state-imposed revenue limits and can only levy a certain amount in property taxes. Many municipalities are already levying up to their limit to cover their expenses and do not have the ability to levy more property taxes to pay for the increase in the county’s solid waste and recycling fee.
Many of the municipalities in Dunn County include the county’s solid waste and recycling fee as a line item in their budgets so it is covered as part of the property tax levy.
Instead of including the solid waste and recycling fee as part of the property tax levy, the other two options are to hold a binding referendum seeking approval from residents to exceed the revenue limit or to invoice the county’s solid waste and recycling per capita to each household.
If the increased Dunn County fee is invoiced, a per capita fee of $80 would result in each household receiving an invoice for $200 (calculated at 2.5 people per household) above and beyond what the household is already paying in property taxes.
A referendum question to exceed the revenue limit would have to wait since the deadline has already passed for getting a referendum question on the November ballot.
Niggemann has done some rough calculations based on the tons of solid waste and recycling hauled out of the Colfax collection site last year and estimates that a per capita of $23, or perhaps a bit more, would be sufficient to operate the Colfax site.
The intention is to offer the same services at the Colfax site that are being offered now under Dunn County. In addition to solid waste and recycling, the Colfax site intends to collect demolition or construction waste, tires, batteries, used oil and so forth, Gunnufson said.
One change that will occur at the Colfax collection site is that instead of sorting the recyclables into different bins, residents using the site will dump all of the recyclables into a single container that will be sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).
While Dunn County’s budget has included revenue from the sale of recyclable materials, the budget for the Colfax site will not include — or rely on — revenue from recyclables, Gunnufson said.
By not relying on recycling revenue, if there is no revenue from the sale of recyclables, the Colfax solid waste and recycling program will not be creating a deficit, he said.
The municipalities with representatives at the meeting agreed that the Colfax solid waste and recycling committee should include a representative from each of the municipalities, either the chair of the townships or a representative appointed by the chair.
Some of the issues that the committee considers will include what kind of permit to use and how the permits will be distributed to residents; how to charge non-members for using the site; and a fee structure for certain materials that cost extra for disposal.