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County to change solid waste plan

Mon, Jun 12th, 2000
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Monday, June 12, 2000

Normally when government begins dismantling one program it has another one ready to replace it. That doesn't seem to be the case with the Fillmore County Solid Waste plan.

At Tuesday's Fillmore County Board of Commissioners meeting, the county board made the decision to give notice to the cities of Fountain, Chatfield, Preston and Whalan that it will terminate their waste delivery agreements on August 6. In a letter that is to go out to the cities, the county was giving 60 days notice to terminate the agreement while at the same time hoping to negotiate a "mutually beneficial" agreement with the cities in the future.
Through the agreement, haulers on contract with the four cities have received special tipping rates at the Resource Recovery Center (RRC).

At the same time that it was deciding to terminate hauling agreements, the board was instructing Resource Recovery Center manager Jon Martin to prepare the specifications to send out Request for Proposals (RFP) to private operators to bid on taking over various RRC operations, including composting, recycling, solid waste and transfer station management. It is hoped that proposals will be received by the county by the end of July.

Several months ago, Waste Management, a private hauling company, made a proposal to the county to take over many of the RRC services. The company would have eliminated the composting line, while expanding recyclables. They would also have guaranteed that the county would meet its obligations of delivering 1850 tons of solid waste to the Winneshiek County Landfill each year. They would then have taken any excess solid waste to a landfill in Lake Mills, Iowa where the tipping fees are cheaper.

It is assumed that by going to the RFP system, the county will be looking to privatize many of its operations. It is likely that the composting line will be phased out as the county has had difficulty marketing its compost product. RRC operations have been subsidized by the taxpayers for years. In addition to revenue generated through tipping fees, the operation will be subsidized with $255,2 from the county budget this year.

According to SCORE Administrator Sandra Benson, the county hopes to put in place a county-wide program that is environmentally sound and makes economic sense. She said that terminating the city agreements was necessary to come up with a new plan.

Benson acknowledges that the present solid waste plan is not county-wide. Waste Management, who hauls solid waste in several cities in the county, only brings their recylcables to the RRC at this time, choosing to take their solid waste to Iowa. None of the cities where Waste Management operates have agreements with the county.

While it is possible that the county could continue with their present operation after August 6, in the event that they reject all RFP's, it would appear at this time that they are prepared to turn over many, if not all, of their solid waste activities to the private sector. Stay tuned as this policy issue unfolds.

Rock, sand and dust. With county and township roads loosing tons of gravel from their roads in the recent flooding, it was perhaps timely that the board approved several conditional use permits for rock and sand quarries. But the process was not without controversy as the issue of dust control reared its head again.

The first issue was a procedural one. Commissioner Duane Bakke, who is on the Fillmore County Planning Commission, questioned why one condition recommended by the commission was absent from those being considered by the county board.

During the commission hearing Bakke had suggested that quarries should have to comply with the Fillmore County Dust Control Policy, even though there wasn't a policy in place to comply with. Bakke reasoned that the county might have one in the future. This condition was added to some quarry permits by the planning commission.

But in the documents received by the county board, this condition was absent. Bakke wanted to know why. Zoning Administrator Norm Craig said that the minutes didn't show this condition. Commissioner Helen Bicknese, who was at the planning commission meeting, didn't say anything about the matter. (It was reported in the May 29 Journal that Bakke made a motion to that effect at the May 25 planning commission).

Notwithstanding Bakke's procedural question, County Attorney Matt Opat commented on the legal merits of Bakke's suggestion. Opat recommended that the board not use any reference to a dust control policy because there has not been any public hearing discussing the issue. Opat was afraid that it would be subject to a legal challenge.

In the end, eleven conditional use permits for rock quarries and sand pits were approved. The only one that had extraordinary conditions placed on it was the Hammel Quarry in Section 36 of Jordon Township.

The permit requires Milestone Materials to provide dust control as specified by the road authority (county or township) on public roads travelled by trucks that haul rock from this quarry; instruct their truck drivers to travel at reasonable and safe speeds; limit the quarry hours from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and notify the county and adjacent neighbors one week in advance of any blasting.

County Road #25. Highway Engineer Steven Voigt and Commissioner Don Boyum raised the issue of what to do with County Road #25 in Peterson. Voigt said that a contract had been signed over a year ago between County Engineer Gene Ulring and Dunn Blacktop for $13,000 to do some blacktopping near Chuck's Feed & Grain in Peterson. The work was never done.

Boyum said that the problem has to do with poor drainage and water entering some buildings. Boyum also raised the question of putting in place handicapped accessible sidewalks.

While most commissioners felt that given the county's other priorities, now was not the time to be looking at this project. However, questions were raised as to whether the board ever approved this project. County Attorney Opat said that he was very concerned if in fact the county engineer is signing contracts that are not approved by the county board. No action was taken on the matter.

Township Road setbacks. The board voted three to two not to change the Zoning Ordinance to reduce the setback for construction on township roads from 100 feet from the center of the road to 70 feet. The reduced frontage would allow property owners to place buildings closer to the road. While townships were split on whether to support the initiative or not, the planning commission recommended that the setback be changed. Their reasoning was that the Board of Adjustment has been called out over 40 times to issue a variance to build less than 100 feet. Commissioner Bakke argued that unless there is a hardship, the Board of Adjustment will be turning down those requests. Commissioners Gary Peterson, Helen Bicknese and Robert Underbakke voted to turn down the measure.

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