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Grant puts wheels under Renville-Redwood counties recycling project

OLIVIA -- Several years of planning for a joint recycling facility to serve Renville and Redwood counties has paid off with the announcement Thursday by Gov. Mark Dayton that the counties will receive a $1,898,750 grant from the state of Minnesota.

"We're finally going to get some wheels under the project and we're ready to go,'' said Jon Mitchell, environmental director for Redwood County.

His enthusiasm was shared by Marlin Larson, public works director in Renville County. "They're one of the best, shining stars in the state as far as recycling goes,'' he said of Redwood County. "We're excited to be partnered with them.''

Renville County sees the joint recycling and transfer station as an opportunity to extend the life of its landfill, and as part of a long-term solution to solid waste management, Larson explained.

The grant monies will be applied toward an estimated $4.5 million project to build a recycling facility and transfer station on the west side of Redwood Falls, which is the geographic center of the two counties.

The recycling center will replace an undersized and admittedly substandard facility now serving Redwood County.

The project is projected to create approximately 20 construction jobs, eight full-time equivalent jobs (public sector) and retain 16 jobs, according to information from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The new facility will be able to sort, package and market all of the recyclables collected in the two counties, which have a combined population of 32,000. It will also have the capacity to handle materials for other counties if interest develops, said Mitchell.

Redwood County currently recycles 81 percent of the recyclable materials purchased within its borders. The successful program goes beyond collecting paper, cardboard, plastics, metals and glass to include used motor oils and compost.

Larson said Renville County hopes to improve its rate of recycling -- now barely over 30 percent -- through the partnership.

The two counties originally began exploring the possibility of combining their waste streams for a waste-to-energy project about 10 years ago. They have since focused their attention mainly on a joint recycling and transfer station. The new facility will likely be designed so that it could be adapted at a later date to separate the waste stream so that refuse-derived fuel could be collected, according to Mitchell.

The two-county, cooperative approach makes a lot of sense, he said. "Like a puzzle, we fit well together,'' he said.

The environmental officer noted that both counties have roughly equal populations of 16,000. Renville County has a higher proportion of rural residents, while Redwood County has a larger share of urban residents and industry.

The grant funds are being awarded by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The joint proposal ranked fifth in a statewide competitive application process.

Larson and Mitchell credited bipartisan support from the governor, State Sens. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara Ctiy and Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and State Reps. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, and Paul Torkelson, R-St. James as well as assistance from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency with making the grant award possible.

The two counties previously created the Redwood and Renville County Regional Solid Waste Board under a joint powers agreement to oversee the project.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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