Cleaner waste, but higher feesNine years ago, the Red Wing Public Works Department took its first step toward acquiring a front-end fuel cleaner — a conveyor system that separates solid waste into different recyclable groups.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Nine years ago, the Red Wing Public Works Department took its first step toward acquiring a front-end fuel cleaner — a conveyor system that separates solid waste into different recyclable groups.
On Monday, the Red Wing City Council approved the project’s final design and financing. The project will be funded by selling bonds.
City officials hope the conveyor will be the city’s long-term answer to solid waste — a difficult issue for the city in recent years. It has been the root in both a tiff with Goodhue County and a lawsuit filed against the city.
City officials hope that in the next 10 years the conveyor system will eclipse the incinerator as the city’s primary method for processing solid waste.
In the near term, the conveyor will complement the incinerator. Materials such as metal and glass will be sorted out on the conveyor to be recycled, while paper and plastic will be burned in the incinerator.
The total project, which includes powerful magnets to sort items and building an addition to the incinerator, will cost $5.4 million.
Because the city has garnered $2 million in state grants, Red Wing must put up $3.4 million.
Residents will see the project’s cost reflected in their in their utility bills. Director of Public Works Denny Tebbe said Red Wing residents can expect a $2.80 monthly increase.
The costs are hefty, but City Council member Stephen Castner said it was worth it environmentally.
“I think of this and I always think of Kermit the Frog. It’s not easy being green,” he said. “We’re not required to, but I think it’s the direction Red Wing wants us to go.”
Tebbe said the conveyor will not only help Red Wing be greener, but also may help its Bench Street facility end up in the black.
An increase in recycling will push Red Wing up the state’s solid-waste hierarchy, which promotes recycling over burning and land filling. Tebbe added that the city profits form recycling, especially when materials like metal are in high demand.
In previous years, the city’s incinerator has operated at a net loss. In 2006, it lost $274,366, the last year for which data is available.
Tebbe said the losses stem from costly repairs to the incinerator and having to shut it down to make sure it complied with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency standards.
The conveyor helps twofold, Tebbe said. It will result in less wear and tear on the incinerator, and will allow the city to continue processing waste if the incinerator shuts down.
The council has long supported the project but needed to sign off on it one last time because of higher expected costs. In 2006, the project was estimated at $4.8 million, increasing by $600,000 in two years.
“We were somewhat disappointed when we saw how this cost increased, but it has been two years,” Tebbe said.
To help soften the blow, the public works department cut down its original request.
Once bonds are greenlighted and construction bids are selected, the project will begin. Rick Moskwa, deputy director of solid waste, said construction is to start in August and be completed by July 2009.