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Perham incinerator facility wins $5 million

An 11th hour call from the governor's office resulted in a pot of gold for Perham - just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

"I don't know if it is freshman luck...or the luck of the Irish," laughed State House Rep. Mark Murdock, the freshman Republican legislator from Perham-who happens to be an Irish-American.

The bonding bill will include $5.07 million for the Perham Resource Recovery facility. The bonding money, combined with a $2.8 million Minnesota Pollution Control Agency grant that has been on hold for nearly three years, sets the stage for a $12 million-plus expansion of the Perham solid waste incinerator.

Otter Tail, Becker, Wadena and Todd Counties will be sending most of their solid waste to Perham for incineration, under the multi-jurisdiction plan. The incinerator project is expected to create 10 jobs in Perham.

Line item vetoes by Gov. Tim Pawlenty eliminated many projects from the state bonding bill - including a Polk County solid waste initiative - but the Perham project survived - narrowly, it appears.

A last minute sales pitch to the governor, from Rep. Mark Murdock, may have been a factor in the Irish luck that brought "green" to Per-ham and the four counties.

"I received a call from Rep. Kurt Zellers, who was in the governor's office when the governor was doing the line item vetoes," said Mur-dock. "They put me on speaker phone, and I had the opportunity to explain that the project met all the governor's parameters."

The four-county joint powers is consistent with Gov. Pawlenty's concept of "regional" governmental solutions, said Murdock. Job creation is another of the governor's criteria for bonding requests. Also, the fact that the incinerator recycles waste in the form of steam energy, meets the governor's requirements. Bongard's Creameries and Tuffy's Pet Foods buy as much as 26 million pounds of steam a month from the Perham facility - and are projected to purchase more when the facility is expanded.

That phone call, and Murdock's summary explanation on the governor's speaker phone, may have tipped the scale and prevented a line-item veto.

The regional agreement will mean that nearly all of the solid waste from four counties will be incinerated in Perham.

"This money will go right to the bank, and they can start pushing the project forward almost immediately," said Murdock.

"It was a great day yesterday...a great day for the area," said Murdock.