Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling will stop handling waste and recycling on January 1, 2021. Due to drastic changes in the recycling industry, the cost of handling recycled materials has skyrocketed over the past few years. Because of this the costs of running the program for municipalities in Dunn County has increased, and the cost of residents in the different municipalities in the county was scheduled to increase quickly

This morning in an interview with Morgan Gerk, Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Director, Gerk stated that the original increase in costs to municipalities would be from the current $23 per capita to $60.05 per capita. Many of the municipalities balked at the increased costs, and some of them began pulling out of the agreement with the county, choosing instead to certify themselves to handle the solid waste and recycling, and having commercial haulers take the trash and recycling from the municipalities. In some cases that would involve the municipality taking over a current transfer center being used by the county, or having a commercial hauler provide curbside pickup throughout the municipality.

Many of the municipalities pulled out of the current agreement after they were given an August 19 deadline to respond on whether they would continue to use the county services. So many of the municipalities pulled out that it was clear that the county could not provide services economically to the few government bodies that stayed in the agreement. 

Currently, the county provides recycling for a large range of items including batteries, tires, #5 plastic containers, used motor oil, and other items that are not mandated by state law. The county attempted to make arrangements with the municipalities to handle only the non-mandated materials at a cost of $29.91 per capita, with an additional $6.02 administrative fee. A September 2 deadline was set for the local governments to respond as to whether they would buy into this program. This morning Gerk stated that not enough of the municipalities bought into the program to be able to support it financially. As a result, the county waste and recycling program will terminate operation on Jan 1, and the municipalities will all need to arrange to handle their own waste and recycling through commercial haulers.

The long-term effect for most citizens will be that the local municipality will take more responsibility over waste and recycling, and that a narrower range of materials will be handled for recycling.

This will all be discussed later today at a meeting of the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Department. The meeting will be held at 4:30 PM and will be held via Zoom conferencing. The public may view the meeting on YouTube, and we will attempt to embed the meeting at 4:30 on this article. The agenda and packet for the meeting are available on the Dunn County Website.

Update from tonight's meeting (video above):

Only 2 municipalities opted into the non-mandated items, and the board will continue to work with the municipalities on the paperwork to become their own Responsible Units (RU). 

Morgan Gerk presented the three potential budgets, including the new operative budget for closing out the county as a Responsible Unit. A discussion ensued on the values of the equipment at the different current transfer sites and what the costs could be for the different municipalities to take over the equipment at their local sites. The recommendation was to charge each location $15,000 for the residual value of the compactor at each site, and then to throw in all of the rest of the equipment at each of the transfer stations. If the municipality does not want to take over the individual transfer stations there would be some costs to deconstruct the sites and to auction off the equipment.

The main transfer station for the county includes a large amount of equipment that could be sold, including a skidsteer, forklift, balers, a van, a trailer, a lawn mower, and more.  Gerk recommended that the property and the transfer station itself should not be sold. The facility is currently fully depreciated. It is possible that the county may be called back in to provide these services, and the property could be used for other purposes. 

Questions were raised about the issue of the pending referendum in view of the fact that some of the municipalities may change their minds in view of finding out what their actual costs are to work as their own Responsible Units. All of these decisions were made as emergency decisions, so decisions on the possibility of selling this property or leasing it will be deferred for the moment. This is complicated because the townships are being offered 5 and 10 year contracts by  the commercial haulers, so that will make it less likely that the local municipalities are going to want to go back to having the county handle the materials. 

The estimated continuing costs for staffing in 2021 would be approximately $228,000 and some other additional costs to do reporting, sales,  and to handle the costs of shutting down. Many of the potential expenditures and income items are in flux and not completely clear at this time. 

The estimated 2021 revenues would be about $340,000 and estimated expenditures would be approximately $237,000. This is a rough estimate and will be moved to the PR&D committee next week, and would be considered as a  budget item in October. 

The budget that was determined by shutting down all of the operations of the Solid Waste and Recycling programs on January 1 was approved, and the meeting was adjourned.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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