MARSHALL - The Lyon County Regional Landfill Advisory Board had its annual meeting on Thursday evening to discuss a possible increase in tipping fees, but in the end decided only to recommend an increase of up to $3, only if needed.
"Once a year we're mandated to meet and set tipping prices," said Joel Carlson, a legal and government affairs consultant from St. Paul who advises the board.
The board represents an informal solid waste district composed of the counties of Lac qui Parle, Pipestone, Rock, Lyon, Lincoln and Yellow Medicine counties, all of whom use the facility for garbage disposal.
The final say on any fee increase lies with the Lyon County Board; the landfill board only recommends. The current tipping fee is $45 per ton. The landfill takes in approximately 40 trucks per day, carrying 150 to 200 tons per day, according to Paul Henriksen, environmental administrator for Lyon County.
The first order of business for representatives of the five counties, local businesses and the engineering firm SAIC Energy, Environmental and Infrastructure, LLC was a tour of the landfill.
This is not your grandfather's garbage dump. The facility has been in place since 1971 but during that time, regulations and technology of solid waste disposal have changed, a lot.
"Back then you could dig a hole in the ground and put the garbage in it," said Henriksen.
These days the hole is an eight-acre cell lined with two feet of clay and a plastic membrane. Leachate, water that percolates through the garbage, has to be pumped out through recirculation lines to prevent groundwater contamination. Leachate is pumped to treatment ponds, recirculated onto the garbage to make it easier to compact and aid in organic decomposition, and excess is sometimes trucked to sewage treatment plants around the state to be treated.
All of this adds to the expense of running the facility, which is paid for by tipping fees.
Tonya Kohler, an engineer with SAIC, gave a presentation ending with the recommended fee increase.
According to Kohler, the present $45-per-ton fee has been in place since 1992 and is the lowest in the state.
As part of the projected 2013 budget analysis, Kohler presented a plan for an inclement weather garbage storage shelter with a projected cost between $500,000-$600,000.
The facility would be used to dump garbage on days the wind is blowing at 15 miles per hour or gusting up to 20 mph.
Anti-litter policy requires the landfill be closed under high-wind conditions.
According to the analysis by SAIC, a $3 increase in the tipping fee would result in fee increases to residential customers of no more than 30 cents per month.
Dan Ritter, president of Southwest Sanitation Inc., pointed out that regional industries in the area would be hard hit by even a modest fee increase.
"The current tip fee of $45 a ton was established in 1993 when the scale was put in and has not changed," Ritter said. "So that tells me that in 1993 that rate was in excess by a lot."
Ritter, though not categorically opposed to fee increases, suggested re-examining the need for a wind shelter that would sit idle most of the time, that the estimates of the useful life of heavy equipment might be understated, and the landfill has a surplus that could be used for improvements.
"The landfill is tremendously well-run," Ritter said, "and it has been profitable all these years."
Ritter pointed out that one assumption SAIC made in suggesting a fee increase was that Redwood County might stop using the landfill after construction of the Redwood and Renville County recycling facility and transfer station was completed in an estimated 18 months.
Redwood County representative John Mitchell said at the meeting that the county had never even discussed using any other landfill.
Robert Olsen, environmental administrator for Lincoln County, also suggested caution before raising rates.