City, county to continue solid waste discussionsGoodhue County and Red Wing city officials say ongoing solid waste discussions will continue without state involvement.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Goodhue County and Red Wing city officials say ongoing solid waste discussions will continue without state involvement.
For almost two years, representatives from the three jurisdictions have been meeting to tackle seven tasks outlined in a state-mandated memorandum of understanding aimed at resolving what will be done with area garbage and how to bring more trash to Red Wing's incinerator.
Discussions came to a halt earlier this year when officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the county disagreed on what should be done with the county's Bench Street landfill.
Some involved hope a free solid waste analysis in the works by private hauler Waste Management will bring new ideas — and county and city officials — back to the table.
"We're going to wait until this private entity gives us some ideas, then we may kick up some conversations again," said Greg Isakson, Goodhue County Public Works director. "This is what these people do and they're very good at it. If they're going to tell us how they'd run the operation, I think there would be a lot to glean from that."
Isakson and Commissioner Jim Bryant said continuing discussions with state involvement was fruitless.
Bryant and Isakson said the MPCA refused to admit the county's landfill into its closed landfill program — a task mentioned in the memorandum — because it houses the city's active ash landfill.
"It's the gorilla in the room," Red Wing City Council President Mike Schultz said of the county's landfill. "(The city's) just kind of a player that's watching from the side. We're kind of being held hostage."
Paul Smith, MPCA local government assistance program supervisor, said the agency would not violate state law to take the landfill off the county's hands.
Smith said officials put together a good plan to support Red Wing's incinerator before talks got "bogged down" because of the landfill. He hopes that plan will eventually move forward.
Officials are seeking more trash for the incinerator to increase its efficiency and profitability. Incineration is also preferred over landfilling on the state's disposal hierarchy.
"The incinerator serves the people of Red Wing, which is part of Goodhue County," Smith said. "It has good service for over 20 years and has lots of benefits to the residents countywide."
City and county officials agree solid waste discussions need to continue.
But county officials say they want the state to follow through with benefits for the county and financial assistance promises outlined in the memorandum.
"Part of going into a Memorandum of Understanding is that everyone needs to win to gain something out of it," Isakson said. "What we were hoping was to get rid of the old Bench Street landfill. Now we're just stuck with it."
"It's unfortunate that we've spent a lot of time on it and at this point it is going nowhere," Isakson added.
Isakson said the county paid more than $50,000 last year to maintain and monitor the landfill. Monitoring costs vary year to year and were as high as $80,000 a few years ago.
Schultz said he and other elected officials have an obligation to taxpayers to keep having discussions. He said both sides should consider creating an area solid waste district that handles materials recovery, recycling and demolition landfills.
Schultz said different models exist across the country but both private and public waste haulers can be involved.
"I think a district could provide some answers," he said. "It could be a way for everyone to get the results they're looking for."