Changes are coming to solid waste collection and recycling in Dunn County. Recently the hours at the Downsville Transfer Station were changed and reduced, but more drastic changes are coming to Dunn County. This article will explain some of the needs for change, and what some of the upcoming changes will be. The detailed calendar changes are attached, along with some supporting documents. The video provides a much deeper detail into what is happening and why.

Financial Issue

The Solid Waste operation has a 2019 recycling grant allocation of 156,866. There are 26 member municipalities in the county. There are 8 area collection stations and the county transfer station on Hwy 29. The state's recycling grant peaked at about $32 million in 2012 but has dropped since. In 2016-2017 it was 19 million. The local municipalities have had to make up that difference.

During the last Clean Sweep event 85% of the people were willing to pay more in taxes to have multiple free Clean Sweep events during the year. The Solid Waste division is a non-levy special revenue fund - it needs to be self=supporting. It is funded by per-capita fees, user fees, and sales of recycles. They have a 2.9Million dollar operating budget, and they would like to keep 30% as a targeted fund balance. 

Why is a new business model needed?

There was a budget adjustment of $260,062 in the 2019 budget due to a shortfall.

There was a $105,000 shortfall of recycling commodity sales and a $185,062 shortfall for operations. This is despite the fact that the amount of recycling keeps increasing. There are 30 employees at the collection centers. The Clean Sweep event set records for the amount collected, but the backup of cars for the transfer station went all the way back into Menomonie. DATCP gives the county a $15,500 grant to fund this, but the county spends almost $62,000. This put a hole in the county budget. 

If a change not made to this business model the system will fail in 2020 due to funding. A decision needs to be made on this by January 1.

Costs are rising, revenue is stagnant. The new model lowers the number of staff as site attendants. A team approach is needed using the very best attendants. Currently, all of the sites run on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which means there are many part-time employees, and if someone is sick they need to be covered by county staff. Changing the schedules allows for a smaller number who get more hours. Changing the schedule also helps to improve hauling timeframes and make the transfer stations more efficient. 

Non-mandated items include yard waste, electronics, tires, batteries, ink and toner cartridges, hazardous wastes, scrap metals, #5 container plastics, mixed rigid platics, woven sackes, agricultural and residential plastic films, pvc siding carrier stock, textiles, sharps, used oil, used oil filters, used antifreeze, and deer carcasses. 

Reduced hours also potentially mean the elimination of some recycling opportunities. There is a potential for increased traffic and site congestion, as well as longer service wait times. One saving grace in this is that if the hours are spread throughout the week it would be possible to go to a different collection site than your nearest if it is not possible to get to your local station during the new hours. One of the proposals is to make the Sand Creek site unattended. Sand Creek only collects recyclables, but there is some risk to having it not attended and having citizens dump the incorrect items in the boxes. 

There will be a request for a levy referendum in November 2020. It is also possible there will be a per capita increase in fees. One of the issues is that all of the transfer station facilities are reaching their end of life so there will be requirements for building improvements because the maintenance of the buildings is becoming onerous. There will need to be a re-investment in these facilities, and a new transfer station may cost $20million. 

The new proposed model is attached in some detail, including the hours and costs. There is a long-term goal to have a clean sweep event twice per year. The proposal would make this a free event because the collection of fees is what makes the current event so slow and difficult.

Research was done on what a private hauler would charge. Private haulers will not handle unusual materials. It would only cover paper, cardboard, glass, #1 and #2 plastic and steel cans. 

The county recycles electronics through a 100% recycling company - anything left over after recycling is burned to create heat. Tires are also charged for and are recycled to make rubber crumb and other products. 

The current projected cost if everything is kept the same as it is currently is $82.47 per household or $90.26 if two clean sweeps were done. The proposed costs in the new business plan would range from 67.57 to 77.13 depending on the number of attendants hired and whether one or two clean sweeps are done.

Some other issues being considered would be changing what would be recycled. There are materials that must be recycled by state. law. The county recycles a lot of things that are not mandated. Paper, cardboard, glass, #1PET plastic, #2 HDPE plastic, steel cans, and aluminum cans are mandated. Dunn county handles many other items including yard waste, electronics, tires batteries, ink and toner cartridges, hazardous waste, lamps and ballasts, various scrap metals, #5 containers, woven sacks, agricultural and residential plastic films, PVC siding, carrier stock, used oil and oil filters, antifreeze, and more. 

Town of Dunn clerk Sally Rassmussen proposed a different schedule for the collection stations, stating that Town of Dunn citizens are prepared to be taxed more to have longer hours than the original proposal.  All of the different municipalities would need to agree with this and it will need to be voted on at the Dec. 3 meeting. This is a very fast timeline for decisions. It will be very difficult to do anything other than to implement the proposal that was made at the meeting tonight. 

A new business plan needs to be decided on by Jan. 1, 2020, which is not ideal since it will require approving a plan without further study of the options. It is likely that the schedule in this story will be approved at the Dec. 3 Solid Waste meeting, with only some minor changes.

Decision on meetings for 2020. 

Meetings will be moved to 4:30 PM on the first Tuesday of every month. Some of those may need to be moved due to elections. 

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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 Association, 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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