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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — After losses in revenue from the bottom falling out of the recycling market and borrowing $330,000 from Dunn County, the final close-out of the Dunn Solid Waste and Recycling program could end up “a wash.”
Closing down the solid waste and recycling program is a disposal process, and at the end of the year, the money that is left will roll into the general fund, said Keith Strey, Dunn County’s chief financial officer, at the June 8 meeting of the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board.
At the last DCSW&R board meeting, Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and chair of the board, had asked for an overview of the solid waste and recycling program’s financial position.
At the end of 2019, the solid waste and recycling program had a general fund balance of $237,000. The 2020 audit is not yet finished, but the estimated 2020 fund balance is $330,000, Strey said.
There are still bills to be paid yet, and there is still revenue to receive, and there is also the consideration of the $330,000 solid waste and recycling borrowed from the county for operations, he said.
“I think it will be pretty close to being a wash at the end,” Strey said.
At the Dunn County Board’s May 2020 meeting, the county board approved a budget adjustment of $330,000 for Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling to transfer money from the county’s general fund balance.
The value of recycled commodities was at historic lows, and the volume of waste to the transfer station, for which the county received tipping fees, also was less. The remote collection sites, such as Colfax, Elk Mound and Boyceville, were expensive for the county to operate as well.
At the end of the year, when the solid waste and recycling program is completely closed out, “it will be close to a wash,” Strey said, adding “that will be as good as it’s going to get.”
The Dunn County highway department will be using the end loader from the transfer station, and some of the other equipment will be going to other county departments, Bjork said.
Will the equipment transfers be reflected in the financial statements for solid waste and recycling? he asked.
Money will not be moved back and forth between departments, but the equipment used by other departments “are substantial pieces of equipment” which will end up being a positive for the county because Dunn County will not have to buy more equipment, Strey said.
At the September of 2020 meeting of the solid waste and recycling board, Morgan Gerk, director of the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Program, reported that equipment at the transfer station included 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 was purchased for $176,000 in 2018.
Due to the uncertainty in the solid waste and recycling budget and the uncertainty of whether the $23 per capita paid by Dunn County residents for the program would increase to $60 per person or $70 or $80, the majority of the municipalities in the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling program decided to pull out of the program and become their own Responsible Units.
The State of Wisconsin requires all municipalities to be a Responsible Unit for recycling, although the state has no mandates concerning solid waste.
A municipality can be its own Responsible Unit or can join another RU.
The Village of Colfax and the Towns of Colfax, Grant, Otter Creek, Tainter and Wilson, and the Village of Elk Mound and the Towns of Elk Mound and Spring Brook, formed an RU to operate the collection sites at Colfax and at Elk Mound.
The Village of Colfax is the Responsible Unit, and the other municipalities joined the Colfax RU.
The Villages of Colfax and Elk Mound already owned their respective collection sites and were leasing them to Dunn County for $1 per year.
Dunn County has already sold some of the equipment that was at the collection sites to the Responsible Units, such as the compactors.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Program officially closed down as of January 1.
At the June 8 meeting, Gerk reported that the state Department of Natural Resources had completed the inspection of the transfer station on state Highway 29 west of Menomonie.
The inspection is finished, and the transfer station “passed with flying colors,” Gerk said.
The DNR only asked that a permanent sign be posted on the gate with the closure date of January 1, 2021, he said, noting that the sign was in the process of being made at the time of the June 8 meeting.
The transfer station “is all buttoned up,” Gerk said.
Gerk and other county personnel spent the winter and part of the spring sorting and packing up the various recyclables (much of it non-mandated recyclables) that remained at the transfer station.