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DAC requests 2 percent increase for recycling expenses

A DAC client cuts fringe on one of the dozens of woven rugs the groups makes and sells at its stores. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

In the second year of a five-year contract, Hubbard County's Developmental Achievement Center is asking for a 2 percent increase to its overall budget for 2013.

The DAC employs 106 mentally disabled persons at its various businesses, director Ed Ranson said.

The DAC runs the Bearly Used Thrift Store, the Tin Ceiling, the Salvage Depot and the DAC, in which clients make rugs, buttons and other items for sale. It has the major recycling contract with the county.

"We're not primarily recycling," Ranson told the board. "We are the social service provider for 106 clients. It's been steadily going up over the years. These are the folks we're creating jobs for."

The program started with 23 clients, he said.

But day training and habilitation service "is consistently losing money" due to rate restructuring at the state, Ranson said.

Licenses for doing business have "gone way up."

And Ranson presented a chart of transportation costs that he maintains is crippling the organization. He presented a chart showing that since 1996 Heartland Express transportation to and from Laporte has risen 483 percent, while recycling charges per ton have gone up only 45 percent.

Transportation costs have been raised $45,000 a year, he said.

"We have a $77,000 loss projected this year," Ranson told the board. "That's closer than I'd like to be as a non-profit. The economy has absolutely suppressed recycling."

More people are hanging onto things, he indicated.

"Our costs go up like anyone else's," Ranson said. "We've held wages flat."

The cost of materials, gas, propane and medical services has all gone up, he said, asking for a 2 percent increase.

"We have bent over backwards."

In 2011, the DAC rebated $7,768 to the county when the costs of some recycled goods rose, along with DAC's profits.

But glass recycling has fallen flat. There's no market, it's too heavy to truck to a center and it's piling up.

"We've been hauling it, crushing it... the markets are terrible," Ranson said. "It has no value."

The county has used ground glass in bituminous paving projects, but it largely sits.

The board and Ranson went over some of the services provided and discussed ways to trim back.

Recycling centers have been set at grocery stores, Walmart and other locations. Ranson said those are all doing well. "We've limited curbside to Park Rapids but it's a marginal activity," he said. "We could consider dropping it."

Commissioner Cal Johannsen said when "80 percent of the people are hauling it in from the county" it shouldn't burden city residents to bring their recyclables to the transfer station or a recycling center. The express lanes at the transfer station are heavily used, said solid waste manager Vern Massie.

Commissioner Lyle Robinson said, "We should take steps to run it in a businesslike manner."

The board took no action on the request, but did note the DAC's operations have expanded markedly.

"People are wondering if you're going to own the whole town," Robinson said.

The DAC has purchased several buildings, which then get taken off the tax rolls because of its non-profit status.

But the DAC pays special assessments and for solid waste, Ranson countered. And assessments downtown are in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

"We're very aware and sensitive to that issue," he said, noting the DAC has currently outgrown its current quarters downtown and needs a bigger building.

"We're not trying to become land barons."

But there has been some controversy that the DAC has a monopoly on the county's recycling. Ranson said the DAC, even in a competitive bidding situation, would come out lowest.

He pointed out that 60 percent of the DAC's annual $2.5 million budget is in salaries that are spent in the region. He said by and large, the public supports DAC's mission and its stores.

He requested enough of a raise to pay the Sentence to Service inmates the operations employ.

"You want us to give you more money so you can give it back to us?" Johannsen questioned.

Ranson nodded.

Sarah Smith

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

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