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Hubbard County DAC seeks remedy for deficit at recycling center

The Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) proposed an increase in the monthly fee it receives for staffing the county's recycling center.

"We would like to stay involved, but due to funding for the types of services that we do, the DAC is running at a deficit. It's really important that all parts of our business are, at least, covering their own costs," said DAC Executive Director Laura Johnson.

She met with the Hubbard County Board during their Nov. 7 meeting.

County Solid Waste Administrator Jed Nordin noted that the DAC currently receives $27,500 per month, based on the 2017 recycling contract with the county. It was uncertain whether that compensation was sufficient, he said, "because it was such a change over what is was before, with the DAC taking a large chunk of recyclable revenues and then getting paid by the county for staffing the operation."

Johnson and Nordin offered two proposals: increase the monthly management fee to $36,000 so the DAC can meet its actual costs or have the county manage the recycling center and pay DAC clients hourly wages.

"Of course, we appreciate the relationship that the DAC and county have had. Solid waste and recycling has been very good for our agency," Johnson said.

Federal and state government "is really changing the way that we provide services and employment to our clients, so we have had a reduction in the amount of clients that are working at the recycling center for two reasons. One, when we eliminated the sort line, that eliminated quite a few of the jobs and we had to find new employment for a lot of those clients. The jobs that are left are riding on the trucks that require greater physical and cognitive abilities," she said.

Up to eight DAC clients work daily at the recycling center, Johnson explained. Seven are full-time employees, one is part-time. The DAC's monthly costs total $39,211, with the largest expense being employee compensation.

"Worker's compensation is very, very expense out there just because of the nature of the work," Johnson said.

Monthly revenue is $37,675, resulting in a $1,536 per month deficit.

"The DAC is not looking to make a profit, we're just looking at covering our costs," Johnson said.

The second option is to transition management of the recycling center back to the county.

"Obviously, I think it would be in the best interest of the county to interview and hire as many as our employees as possible simply because they know what they're doing. They're already trained."

The county and DAC could set up a contract, based on need, for workers, Johnson said. The DAC currently has similar contracts with CHI St. Joseph's, schools and 20 other area businesses.

The DAC currently charges $35 per hour for two clients and one instructor to work in a facility and $15 per hour for a DAC client to ride on the recycling truck.

"The public really likes the clients there. We need to stress that the state changing a lot of the requirements has taken away the clients away from the project. It's not that the county is cutting any positions. State regulations have moved those clients out into the workforce elsewhere," said Board Chair Vern Massie.

DAC clients at the recycling center are there because they want to, agreed Johnson. "We would still like to have a place and an opportunity to have clients work there."

With a new transfer station on the horizon, Massie said he felt there were jobs for DAC clients.

"I think those jobs are going to remain and maybe even remain because those volumes are not going down," he said.

The current contract expires Jan. 1, 2018, Nordin said. An extension may be necessary while options are vetted.

The county is not interested in having the DAC operate at a loss, he said.

County commissioners agreed to further discuss the issue at their Nov. 14 work session.

Coordinator retiring

Coordinator Debbie Thompson announced her retirement, effective May 1, 2018. County commissioners acknowledged her nearly 30 years of service and authorized re-filling of the position.

Natural Resources Block Grant

The county board accepted a $112,164 block grant for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

County Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf reminded the board that it's an annual state grant that provides supplemental funding for administering the shoreland ordinance, septic ordinance, local water plan and wetland conservation.

"Now they've moved to a biennial allocation of the funds," he said.

Funding for shoreland ordinance was cut "slightly," from $8,606 to $8,434.

"It's not going to affect us in any way," Buitenwerf said.

In other business, the county board did the following:

• Approved a $21,949 final payment to Northern Escrow, Inc. of St. Paul for aggregate surfacing on various Hubbard County and township road projects.

• Approved the low quote of $238,965 from Nortrax John Deere of Grand Rapids for a front end loader. The County Highway Department purchase will be taken from reserves to take advantage of 5 percent cost savings, said Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski. Reserves will be replenished in 2018.

• Tabled review of a solid waste ordinance violation in Todd Township until the Nov. 21 board meeting.

• Agreed to support the Paul Bunyan Forest Riders' grant application to the Minnesota Grant-in-Aid program for Martineau Off-Highway Motorcycle Trail maintenance and the Timberland Dirt Devils' grant application for the Round River Drive ATV Trail.

• Accepted the retirement of Engineering Aid/Sign Tech Marv Vredenburg, effective Jan. 26, 2018, with regrets and thanked him for his nearly 32 years of service to the county.

• Learned that the sale of unused Public Works equipment generated $47,200 in revenues.

• Renewed a five-year software licensing contract with Minnesota Counties Information Systems and Tyler Technologies, Inc., as recommended by County Recorder Nicole Lueth.

• Approved a $40,607 payment related to Boy Scout Camp Wilderness safe room construction. The county will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

• Learned that refinancing of general obligation bonds for Heritage Cottages resulted in interest savings of $170,007.

• Approved a 2018 agreement with CHI St. Joseph's Health for community health services. The county does not provide any funding.

• Ratified collective bargaining agreements with Teamsters 320 (Social Services, Land Department, Environmental Services Office and Parks & Recreation personnel) and AFSCME, AFL-CIO Council 65, Local #2768 (representing the general non-supervisory unit).

• Approved one-year IT purchase of service with Northwoods Computer Service and Tom Hankins of TH Consulting. There were no changes in rates.

The next regular Hubbard County Board meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 9 a.m.