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Becker County to start burning garbage

The Becker County Board took action Tuesday to finalize its participation in the Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority.

The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the county's participation in the joint powers agreement with Otter Tail, Todd and Wadena counties.

The purpose of the agreement will be to allow the participating counties to take part in the joint ownership and operation of the Perham Resource Recovery Facility (the incinerator plant) as well as other cooperative solid waste management efforts.

Commissioner Larry Knutson, while approving the resolution, did express some reservations about taking action in the absence of Commissioner Barry Nelson, who was not present for Tuesday's meeting.

"Does anyone else have a problem with one of our members being absent (for the vote)?" Knutson said. "This is a pretty important decision."

However, as County Administrator Brian Berg pointed out, Commissioner Nelson does sit on the environmental committee that worked to put together the agreement, and has been an "enthusiastic" supporter of the project in the past.

Commissioner John Bellefeuille asked whether County Attorney Mike Fritz had seen the agreement. Environmental Services Officer Steve Skoog noted that yes, Fritz had worked closely with himself and Berg in going over the agreement, "trying to foresee any future problems" that might occur.

"Mike Fritz did spend a lot of time on this with us," Berg agreed.

The commissioners all expressed their agreement that they felt this joint powers arrangement would be, in the words of Commissioner Harry Salminen, "a good thing."

The joint powers agreement approved on Tuesday also establishes a governing board that will include one sitting member and one alternate from each participating county board. However, the commissioners decided that they felt Nelson should be present for the discussion and subsequent appointment of the joint powers board members.

Berg also noted that Skoog had been working with local legislators in attempt to secure funding for the county's plans to update its solid waste transfer station.

In response to a question from an audience member, Skoog said that the volume of solid waste coming through Becker County's transfer station was "down a little," but they were not seeing the sharp drop in volume that other counties have been experiencing.