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Landfill fees will increase to cover state-mandated fund and cleanup

Vehicles are pictured at the Kandiyohi County landfill. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR - Kandiyohi County residents will be paying more next year to cover increased expenses at the sanitary landfill.

On a 4-1 vote this week, the County Board of Commissioners agreed to increase the solid waste management service fee by $10, for a new rate of $40.

The annual fee shows up on property tax statements. The last time it was increased was in 2002.

The tipping fee at the demolition landfill will also increase from $20 a ton to $30 a ton for county residents and to $35 a ton for out-of-county demolition waste.

The additional revenue will help cover some significant new expenses, including a new $1.5 million cell that will be constructed next year, and to help make up for a loss in business at the landfill.

Environmental Services Director Jeff Bredberg said he expects the landfill revenue to be down $50,000 this year because of a reduction in waste being brought there.

That reduction could be the result of increased recycling, but he said it's typical for garbage and landfill revenue to decrease when the economy is bad because people are keeping what they have instead of throwing household items away and buying new.

Don Williamson, from West Central Sanitation, told the commissioners that the 30 percent drop in municipal waste was "real."

But the big expense is a $236,000 fee the county has to pay each year for the next 10 years as a result of a state-mandated assurance fund. The state requires private and public landfills to have cash stockpiled to maintain the landfill when it's closed in the future.

Kandiyohi County currently has $3.1 million in its assurance fund.

Because of groundwater contamination caused by barrels of industrial paint that was buried at the landfill decades ago, the state is now requiring the county to increase its assurance fund to $7.4 million.

The county is also spending $550,000 on corrective action to deal with the contamination.

The county was told this year that it would have to increase the size of the assurance fund by $236,000 every year for the next decade.

"That's a big deal," Bredberg said.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's mandate is "bordering on reprehensive" and he didn't understand the MPCA's justification for the fee.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl agreed. He said counties should be allowed to bond for future landfill expenses rather than be required to have that large amount of cash on hand. "We bond for so many things," Kleindl said. "Why not this?"

Commissioner Richard Larson said the Association of Minnesota Counties lobbied the MPCA heavily to persuade them to allow counties to bond for future landfill closure costs rather than put money into assurance funds, but it was rejected.

"It seemed to fall on deaf ears," Larson said.

Commissioner Dean Shuck said "nobody likes to pay taxes" but he said county residents have been "getting by on the cheap side for years" at the landfill and that now it was "time to pay the piper."

Commissioner Dennis Peterson said the county didn't have a choice but to increase fees to raise the needed revenue. "Consider it one of Pawlenty's fees," he said.

Madsen cast the lone no vote. He said the board should instead continue its efforts to change the state's requirement.

Voting in favor of the increases were Shuck, Larson, Peterson and Chairman Richard Falk.

Kleindl said burying garbage is not an environmentally sound way to handle municipal solid waste, but it is still the "cheapest way to go." The county is exploring options for a waste-to-energy system for the future.

The commissioners also discussed whether to increase or restructure fees charged to residents who dispose of TVs, computer monitors or other electronics at the landfill.

A recycler currently charges the county 8 cents a pound to take electronics. That price could go up to 20 cents a pound in January.

The county currently charges residents $10 for TVs and computers, with no charge for other electronics.

No action was taken, but Kleindl urged the commissioners to talk to constituents about increasing fees for disposal of electronics. There is concern that if the fee is too high, people will dump old electronics in the ditch.

In other action:

- Commissioner Shuck was appointed to a committee to meet with Willmar officials about a possible cooperative venture for both entities' housing and redevelopment authority.

- The commissioners approved a resolution to turn back County Road 120 near Lake Florida to Lake Andrew Township.

- The commissioners were informed that high winds from last month's storm caused damage at county parks, including shingles blown off roofs and downed trees. An insurance claim has been submitted.

- Commissioner Peterson reported that discussion is continuing with a statewide committee on which he serves that is studying ways to stop invasive species, especially zebra mussels, from entering lakes. Because the group includes a variety of interests, including resort owners, boat manufacturers and avid anglers, the discussion has been "contentious." He's pushing for containment of infected lakes and increased penalties for violators.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750