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City’s incinerator will stay closed

There was no perfect solution to the question of what to do with the city’s incinerator, Red Wing council members said, but they decided Monday that it will stay closed.

Council members unanimously agreed to a plan to keep the city’s incinerator shut down and continue processing waste — including sorting and shredding it — and sending it to Xcel Energy’s local steam plant to be burned.

It’s essentially what the city has been doing during the incinerator’s extended outage that began in July. But shifting it to a more permanent solution means setting up a longer contract with Xcel and completing some work at the solid waste campus, including removing some equipment and refurbishing an area to accommodate processing operations and equipment. Those changes to the site will come with a cost, staff noted.

The choice also leaves the council with unanswered questions and some uncertainty, members said, such as the stability of a contract with Xcel and what would happen after it ends.

The city also would have to talk with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about whether grants it had to run the facility could be forgiven.

Still, it is a solution to a longtime issue the city has faced.

“I will be glad to have this settled, even though it’s probably not permanently settled,” Council member Peggy Rehder said.

“This is the end of a long road,” Council President Lisa Bayley said.

The option was the second of three discussed Monday night, and during other talks that have been ongoing regarding the city’s solid waste plans, including at a March 3 City Council workshop.

The other potential options were re-opening the incinerator or sending all of the city’s waste to a landfill. Both would come with their own costs, tradeoffs, risks and uncertainties.

“I think option two is the best of the bad options we have,” Mayor Dan Bender said, noting while he doesn’t like giving up control over the waste materials, it is the most logical choice right now.

“This is not a perfect option,” Bayley agreed, but it allows the city to move forward and focus on other matters, such as a partnership among the county, city and state on solid waste issues.

The goal was to find an option that balanced the city’s environmental goals with economic goals and financial stability.

Staff said they believe this choice does that. Jeff Schneider, Red Wing Public Works deputy director of solid waste, noted it still allows the city to meet its environmental goals with a “greatly reduced” cost versus running its own system. It also allows the city to continue a public/private partnership with Xcel.

“It’s more of a balanced system,” he said.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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