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County extends recycling center contract with DAC

The Hubbard County Board approved a six-month contract extension with the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) for recycling services at their Dec. 19 meeting while other options are vetted.

Solid Waste Administrator Jed Nordin reminded the board that they had discussed a two-year contract with the DAC at a work session and "to see what compensation was required from the DAC for that."

"We've discussed a couple different options," Nordin said. "The concern, really, on both sides is that the number of clients that are working at the transfer station has been reduced quite a bit. We're fearful we'll run into a situation where there's not enough clients to continue operating as we have."

Nordin said both the county and DAC are interested in having a contract, but it must include an "out" for either party. The current solid waste contract with the DAC expires Dec. 31.

The state and federal government are pushing for DAC clients to be placed in community jobs, explained DAC Executive Director Laura Johnson.

"The local social workers are doing a great job with that, and it just means that we have fewer people in the program that have that skill set" for working at the recycling center, Johnson said.

"So these jobs at recycling are not community jobs?" asked County Commissioner Cal Johannsen.

Those clients are employed through the DAC, so according to legislation, they are not considered community jobs, Johnson replied.

"If that person was directly hired through the county that would suffice," Nordin said.

Up to eight DAC clients work daily at the recycling center. Seven are full-time employees, one is part-time.

"Under the recycling contract, the county is paying us a fee to pick up the recyclables, bring them back to the recycling center and prepare them for shipment," Johnson explained.

However, the DAC's monthly costs — employee costs, insurance, incidentals, supplies, etc. — currently exceed income.

"Unfortunately, there's been injuries out there and that's one of the main reasons that workers' compensation costs have continued to go up every year," she said.

In November, Johnson asked the board to increase the monthly compensation that the DAC receives for staffing the county's recycling center.

"The bottom line is the DAC cannot afford to lose any more funds. The loss of revenue from recycling has caused a huge deficit in our budget," Johnson said. "There's the perception that the money we get paid per day for the clients pays their entire cost. It doesn't. We have buildings to maintain, employees to maintain. The activities that we do cost money. When we're paying this client $10 per hour to work, that's not money that's compensated. That's just coming out of the total package."

As rules have changed, DACs across the state are closing, Johnson said. "It's not a money-making opportunity here. We're just looking to cover costs so we can continue providing services."

Nordin said there were two possible solutions: Maintain a revenue stream for the DAC, possibly through recycling cardboard or paper, or the county takes over those recycling center job positions and subcontracts DAC clients.

Social Services Director Deb Vizecky also has a contract with the DAC through June 2018.

"I don't see or hear a recommendation. What are we going to do?" asked County Commissioner Vern Massie, adding he thought the county would retain marketing for paper and cardboard.

"It sounds to me like you guys are still weighing out how to best proceed and what would be the best contract. I don't think the board is prepared to make a decision because we would want your recommendation," said County Commissioner Char Christenson.

Nordin recommended a six-month extension "to put us in line with current Social Services contract."

The board approved the extension, along with raising the DAC's monthly management fee from $27,500 to $32,000.

"It appears it's a very complex issue that we're trying to get some form of action on," said County Commissioner Dan Stacey, suggesting the three parties work together diligently to reach a new, two-year contract. "I see that the DAC is willing to work with the county, and we should give them more time to do that."