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County debates non-resident dumping at solid waste station

When Hubbard County Land Commissioner Bob Hoffman retires in late October after 34 years of service, commissioners will be faced with the dilemma of whether to replace him.

Hoffman is one of 15 land commissioners in Minnesota. He manages 137,000 acres of mostly tax forfeited forestland in the county.

At the July 21 meeting, Hubbard County board members debated whether the county needs another certified forester in the county's land and forestry department.

"We would if we had brisk sales of timber," board chair Lyle Robinson said.

Timber sales have been gradually declining as the region's building boom ended. Area lumber mills aren't taking as much pine and aspen as they did and the prices don't leave much of a profit margin for loggers.

Commissioners discussed whether to combine two managerial positions into one eventually, pairing the solid waste management position with the land commissioner.

Vern Massey is the county's current solid waste superintendent. Solid waste collections have also declined with the economy downturn, bringing less revenue into Hubbard County.

Commissioners took no action, but decided they need to consider what's best for the county in the future.

In other action, the board:

n Discussed non-resident use of the county's solid waste transfer station after commissioner Dick Devine said he was contacted by concerned constituents.

The issue of dumping garbage in Park Rapids has long been a touchy one, since many Becker County residents work in the county and bring their waste with them.

"Is there a way we can really control this?" Devine asked public works superintendent Dave Olsonawski.

Olsonawski said efforts have been made to collect non-resident dumping fees, particularly for building and demolition materials.

"People are gonna sneak in," Devine said.

"I've heard one-third are illegal," commissioner Don Carlson said.

"When taxpayers pull up to someone who's not from the county you've gotta listen to them," Robinson said of the complaints.

Olsonawski said he doubted one-third of the waste facility users are illegal.

"Who's passing through Hubbard County and dumping a bag of garbage?" he asked.

Devine asked the department to prepare a report of usage so he has something to bring back to his constituents.

The county used to have a card system identifying residents eligible to use the facility, But the county streamlined the recycling and garbage drop-off site by adding drive-through lanes. Olsonawski said it's harder to police for non-resident use. The ID cards stopped being used.

"We got a lot more complaints when we had the card and people had to show it," Devine said.

n Listened to an update by Emergency Management Director Brian Halbasch.

A large-scale emergency drill will be planned for sometime this fall as soon as Halbasch secures the grant funds, he said. The county is required by the state Homeland Security Department to hold one annual full-scale exercise to fine tune its response to a mass disaster.

Last year the exercise was held at the RDO potato plant. This year, Halbasch said it likely would be related to the town's propane suppliers.

Halbasch reported he is nearly certified as an Emergency Manager, taking the majority of his classes online. He's also a part-time deputy.

Sheriff Frank Homer said Halbasch gained invaluable experience assisting Wadena with its recovery after tornados decimated the town June 17.

"They had a good recovery plan and I'm glad we were part of it," Homer said.

The Sheriff's Department also announced a second annual "Nite to Unite," which will be held Aug. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Law Enforcement Center. It's an open house showcasing the various duties law enforcement, dispatch and jail officers perform. Last year 600 attended.

Homer also announced his midyear budget. To date, law enforcement had expended 45 percent of its budget; corrections and communications had used 48 percent of that budget.

Overtime, which has been a chronic issue, has been held to 33 percent of the department's budgeted expenditures halfway through the year.

Homer said it actually helped to begin 24/7 coverage of the county with a squad car providing overnight patrol duties.

"To know and realize we've been able to stay under a bare bones budget is good," Homer told the board. Jail staff has used 40 percent of its overtime budget, he added.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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