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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling program is expecting to shut down as of January 1.
Enough of the municipalities in the solid waste and recycling program decided to pull out of the program by the August 19 deadline that there would not be enough revenue to operate the program, said Morgan Gerk, director of Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling, at a meeting of the DCSW&R Management Board September 3.
After the August 19 deadline, Gerk then proposed that Dunn County still operate the transfer station as a collection site for non-mandated recycling items, such as tires, electronics, batteries and certain plastics, and also to offer administrative services to the Responsible Units such as annual reporting to the state Department of Natural Resources and an educational program on recycling.
All municipalities in Wisconsin must either be an RU for recycling or have an agreement to join another RU.
As of the September 2 deadline, only two municipalities, the Village of Elk Mound and the Town of Rock Creek, had indicated they were willing to contract on a per capita basis for non-mandated recycling and administrative services, Gerk said.
Most of the rest of the municipalities opted out of the non-mandated recycling and administrative services, and a few did not report to the county, he said.
The proposal for non-mandated recyclables and administrative services also included year round hazardous waste collection at the transfer station west of Menomonie on an appointment basis with no fees.
With none of the membership to provide revenue, there will be no money to do any of the operations, Gerk said.
At issue was an increase of the solid waste and recycling per capita this year from $23 to $60 or $80 or more, depending on how many of the municipalities stayed in the Dunn County solid waste and recycling program.
Many of the municipalities in Dunn County are already levied up to the revenue limit set by the state to cover their expenses. The increase in per capita, at the upper end, would have meant increases of $20,000 or $30,000 for the municipalities with smaller populations to as much as a $150,000 or $200,000 increase for the municipalities with larger populations.
The Village of Colfax has decided to become the Responsible Unit to operate the Colfax collection site, which is owned by the Village of Colfax, and the Towns of Colfax, Grant, Otter Creek and Tainter have approved joining the Colfax RU after it is approved by the DNR.
The Village of Colfax leases the collection site to Dunn County for $1 per year.
The municipalities that are interested in operating their own sites, such as Colfax, have expressed an interest in buying the equipment at the collection sites, Gerk said.
The value of the compactors at installation was $22,524, and Gerk said he was recommending a resale price of $15,000 per unit.
The compactors had to be converted to single phase electricity to operate at the rural sites, and they were also built with custom “dog houses” that were extra large and extra tall so there were fewer cycles for compaction, which saves on down time when people are waiting to off-load their solid waste, Gerk said.
Gerk said he was recommending that the offices, the safes, the outhouses, the roll-off boxes and the oil collection stations be included at no extra cost with the sale price of the compactors.
The money from the sale of the equipment could go toward paying back the $330,000 loan from the county’s general fund, Gerk said.
The only site Dunn County owns is the Ridgeland collection site. The sale of the land and the equipment would amount to about $150,000, he said.
Gerk estimated that it would cost about $2,500 per collection site to remove the equipment and haul it to the transfer station for storage.
Other equipment at the transfer station includes an end loader with a recommended sale price of $100,000; a Skid-steer with a recommended sale price of $30,000; a forklift for $2,500; two balers for about $14,000 total; a 2017 van for $20,000; several trailers for a couple of thousand dollars; a riding lawn mower purchased in 2019 with a sale price of $1,000; a 20-acre parcel adjacent to the transfer station purchased for $176,000 in 2018; and the transfer station, Gerk said.
Gerk recommended not selling the transfer station or the 20-acre parcel.
The decisions made by the municipalities were made “with emotional responses,” and the county may be asked to get back into the solid waste and recycling business again at some point, he said.
The Dunn County Board has approved a referendum question for the solid waste and recycling program on the November ballot for up to $1 million per year for five years.
If there is no program in 2021, the referendum question would have to amended and rescinded if it passes, Gerk said.
The question on the ballot will read that Dunn County “may” assess up to $1 million, but if the program is gone, the county would not assess the money if the referendum question is approved, said Paul Miller, county manager.
If the referendum passes, the county will be waiting to find out the future, said David Bartlett, county board representative from the Town of Sheridan and chair of the county board.
The Dunn County Board will decide whether to levy the money and may not want to levy it the first year but perhaps will levy the money for the next four years if the municipalities want to get back into the program and the residents show they want the program by approving the referendum, he said.
The next four years may be different, Bartlett said.
No one can make any assumptions going forward until there is more information, he said.
The “may” assess up to $1 million per year applies to all five years, Miller noted.
Even though Dunn County will not be operating a solid waste and recycling program in 2021, there will still be costs associated with the program, Gerk said.
Annual report requirements for 2020 will need to be completed in 2021; bills and invoices will need to be paid; equipment will need to be sold; and there will be other close-out procedures, he said.
To finish up what must be done, the solid waste and recycling program would have revenue and expenditures in 2021 of $343,375, Gerk said.
The 2021 amended budget would have to be “fast tracked,” said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and chair of the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Management Board.
After the management board approves the 2021 budget, it will have go before the Planning, Resources and Development Committee next week for approval, and then it would have to come before the county board at the September 16 meeting, Bjork said.
What if people suddenly want Dunn County to maintain the solid waste and recycling program? asked Steve Rasmussen, representative from the Town of Hay River.
The solid waste and recycling program will likely close up shop, Miller said.
The budget leaves open the possibility of changes in the future, but the budget must move forward, he said.
It is too late to turn the program around by January 1 and still operate the program, Miller said.
But just because Dunn County will not be providing solid waste and recycling services in 2021 does not stop the discussion about new programs for the future, he said.
“We need to close the box and tie the bow on the program we have,” Miller said.
Bjork asked about keeping the solid waste and recycling management board together.
Bartlett said he had not considered disbanding the board until everything had been taken care of with the program.
If the referendum passes or does not pass will present different scenarios, he said.
Some of the townships have jumped in without knowing what will happen. The Town of Sheridan is looking at a per capita for solid waste and recycling of a minimum of $154 and could be as high as $170, Bartlett said.
Miller suggested leaving the solid waste and recycling board in place until the Dunn County Board is up for re-election again and then after the election reassign the committees.
Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling put its best foot forward with a per capita of $60.05, Gerk said, noting that some municipalities were in support of maintaining the same services and opportunities.
Gerk said he had also talked to many residents who do not want the county program to go away.
The county has limited capacity to contradict what the municipalities want, he said.
Important partners have pulled out the program, and the per capita would be higher than $60.05, Miller said.
The $60.05 per capita depended upon the City of Menomonie and the Town of Red Cedar staying in the program, and they decided early on to pull out of the program, he said.
The Town of Red Cedar has a population of about 2,100, and the City of Menomonie has a population of around 16,000.
Miller said he was confident that the boards in the municipalities had made decisions that were in the best interests of their constituents.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Management Board approved the revised budget for 2021 that will go before the Planning, Resources and Development Committee September 8 for consideration.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Management Board meets next on October 6.