"Here's the age-old problem we've got in solid waste: our out-of-county waste," County Solid Waste Administrator Jed Nordin told county commissioners last week.
A "significant" amount of that waste is ending up in the Hubbard County landfill, and the issue needs to be addressed, Nordin said.
With a Park Rapids garbage hauler no longer picking up trash and potentially going out of business, "we've been bombarded with calls from out-of-county residents wondering what they're supposed to do with their garbage, which I guess opened our eyes even more to the problem we've had going on. That waste was supposed to be going to the appropriate facility, whether it was Wadena County or Becker County," he said.
Nordin asked the board, "Do we want to eliminate out-of-county waste all together for our licensed haulers? I know that's going to be an issue for one or two of them just based on how their rates are set up, but with the system we've got, we can't patrol it — not the way we want to."
"It's a real problem," agreed Board Chair Cal Johannsen.
"The last thing we want to do is permit something that allows a hauler to undercut what haulers in other counties are doing," Nordin said. If honest haulers are delivering garbage to the proper facility and paying the tip fee, "that's not fair."
"Do you think this issue is because we don't have the tip fee that other people have?" asked Johannsen.
"That's a big part of it. Location is part of it, too. If you live a half-mile on the side of the (county) line and you've got a hauler coming in, I get it. But it shouldn't put our in-county residents on the hook for the disposal fees," Nordin said.
County Commissioner Dan Stacey asked if the issue should be addressed when the new solid waste administrator joins the staff this year.
"Absolutely," replied Nordin. "This isn't going to be fixed overnight."
"It's been going on forever," agreed County Commissioner Vern Massie. "We've talked about setting a base fee, but then we're double-hitting the county residents. It takes honesty on the hauler side of it. That's the whole key."
If haulers are picking up refuse in Wadena and Becker counties, they need to change their routes and take the waste to those facilities, Massie said.
On the plus side, Nordin said, "we've sold some out-of-county individual permits, which is a good thing" and there's renewed interest in new haulers getting licensed for Hubbard County.
Nordin said he'd like to clamp down on violations.
"We're not really saying you can't bring it. We're saying if you bring it, pay," Massie said. "Wadena, Becker and Perham counties are going to scream and holler because they're not getting the volume they need."
The out-of-county rate is intentionally set high — at three times the in-county rate — "because we don't want the stuff here," Nordin said.
Johannsen suggested discussing the matter further with the solid waste committee.
In related business, the county board did the following:
• Approved a bridge replacement list, which prioritizes those requiring rehabilitation or removal within the next five years.
"We do this every year and sent it to the state, with the hopes that bridge bonding becomes available for those bridge structures," said County Engineer/Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski.
This year's list included bridges on CSAH 36, CSAH 40, CSAH 16, CSAH 13 and Fairwood Drive, with bond requests ranging from $70,000 to $350,000.
• Approved $1,500 in joint powers dues to the Mississippi Headwaters Board.
• Reviewed results of the Jan. 8 timber auction, totalling $447,550.
"All parcels sold," said County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier. "Prices were down a little bit. I think what we're finding right now is the mills are fairly full, and when their wood yards get full they tend to reduce the prices they're paying and so that reflects back into the stumpage they're willing to pay us. It wasn't down significantly. Overall, the price is sound."
• Authorized appraisal of the tax-forfeited Hocking Acres lots. Lohmeier anticipates they'll be up for auction in April.
• Approved the City of Akeley's funding application to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a Paul Bunyan Trail-head Project. The county would serve as the sponsoring agency for the funds.
• Approved the transfer of a recreation cabin lease from Ron Norenberg to Mike Baumgartner and Steve Baumgartner.
• Accepted partnering funds for the AIS program from the Duck Lake Association ($492) Fishhook Lake and River Association ($3,850) and Kabekona Lake Association ($11,024). The board also approved a purchase agreement with Mantrap Township to conduct supplemental AIS watercraft inspections from fishing opener through Labor Day. The agreement outlines 558 hours of inspection for Spider Lake, East Crooked, Middle Crooked and Big Mantrap. The township will pay a total of $10,323 for the county service.
• Approved the $7,910 purchase of a used vertical lift from United Rentals of Fargo. The unit allows maintenance personnel to replace lights or smoke detectors and adjust cameras at the jail.