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County reluctant to begin incinerating waste

Hubbard County may not contribute to Perham's new waste incinerator or become a partner in the operation unless it gets better incentives to do so.

Solid Waste manager Vern Massie has been in contact with Perham officials, who are trying to line up suppliers or partners to share the waste obligations and profits, if any.

The county's current solid waste contract, with Waste Management Services, is up in 2011.

"They would have to be included in a bid process," Massie told the board.

"How much is our waste worth?" he questioned. "If they (Perham" want it bad enough they can pay us for it."

He told the county board incinerating waste is expensive. The Perham facility won't take furniture or large sections of carpet, so that waste would still have to be hauled away and landfilled. Only municipal solid waste would go to Perham.

Currently the county pays $56.25 per ton in tipping and trucking fees. Perham would charge $62 and the transportation costs would fall on Hubbard County.

"If we change our whole operation and don't like it can we go back?" commissioner Dick Devine questioned about incineration. "Are we jumping off a cliff here?"

"Obviously if you're incinerating it goes up in the air," said commissioner Cal Johannsen. "We're not putting it in the ground."

Massie said scrubbers and other filters on incinerators are in place to ensure that only steam is emitted from smokestacks. Perham is currently collecting gas for resale in gasification processes, he said.

But commissioners nonetheless worried that incinerators constantly seem to be shutting down due to environmental concerns.

"It's a good thing to dream about but it's not feasible," board chair Lyle Robinson said of the cost. "We shouldn't close the door on any possibility but we shouldn't be naïve."

The department will start negotiating bids next year, Massie said, considering all options for disposing of the county's waste.

In other county business, the board:

-Approved the Big Sand Lake Association installing a small rain garden at the Lake Emma public access to prevent erosion and washouts. Association members will be putting plants and shrubs at the access.

-Approved spending about $3,900 to preserve survey records, maps and field notes, converting them onto a digital storage program.

-Heard from Auditor Pam Heeren that the undesignated cash balance was more than $560,000 in the red, "that's a good thing. You have no surplus," she told commissioners. The county received a $16.5 million tax settlement June 1, with 52 percent of taxes collected.

-Authorized the Sheriff's Department to spend $16,000 on a bay station in the overall conversion to narrowband radio, which the state mandated. The funds will come from a 2006 Homeland Security grant.

Devine, having recently attended a regional radio board meeting, expressed his concerns at the cost of the conversion. "It's going to cost between $2 (million) and $5 million," he said.

"They're trying to fix something that isn't broke," said Johannsen of the state's mandate.

"They're just trying to placate the metro areas," Devine said. 'It's going to cost a lot of money."

Sheriff Frank Homer agreed. "Northwest Minnesota is not the metro area as far as financing," he said.

-Learned that commissioner Greg Larson has made contacts with two agencies about bringing inmates to Hubbard County. Larson said he has recently made contact with White Earth and another contact with Cass County to bring prisoners here. Although Cass County has a deal with Crow Wing County, it has indicated it would like to transport its inmates to a closer facility if it can get out of its contract.