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County opts to collect its own recycling

Lyon County commissioners say the move will cost less, but it will mean the end of curbside pickup for recyclables

Photo by Deb Gau Environmental Administrator Roger Schroeder presented at the Lyon County Board meeting Tuesday morning.

MARSHALL —  After facing bids that some Lyon County commissioners said the county couldn’t afford, it now looks like the county will be going solo on its recycling program — while also ending curbside pickup.

After discussion at Tuesday morning’s county board meeting, commissioners voted to spend a maximum of $150,000 on roll-off containers where Lyon County residents can place recyclable materials. In a separate vote, commissioners also called for the county to advertise for a truck driver to collect recyclables.

Commissioners said they would wait to approve the purchase of a roll-off or hook-lift truck to haul recyclables, while county environmental administrator Roger Schroeder brought them a more specific proposal for one.

The board’s decision comes after commissioners balked at recycling bids the county received in August, which came back in the range of $400,000 to $700,000 a year. The county’s previous recycling contract, with Southwest Sanitation, had been $306,780 a year.

Schroeder said the county currently collects recycling from about 6,600 county residents, and about 2,000 apartment units. Some Lyon County communities also have recycling sheds or dropoff containers.

The county’s current recycling service will end Sept. 27, Schroeder said at Tuesday’s board meeting. In the meantime, he had tried to research other options, including picking up recycling from drop sites around the county. The county could then have the option to take the recyclables to a transfer facility in Redwood Falls, or contract to have the recyclables transported to the Twin Cities.

Schroeder said he thought the proposal could work, but “We can’t do it with our existing county staff, though.” The county would need to hire an additional employee to haul the recycling from county drop sites.

Schroeder said he thought county could make the recycling proposal work for about $300,000. However, it would involve buying 30-yard containers for the recycling, and hiring the right individual to serve the county drop sites. Schroeder said he was trying to account for the cost of fuel mileage and maintenance for the truck to haul the materials.

At the same time, Schroeder also said it’s not certain how many county residents would be willing or able to take their own recyclables to a drop site.

“I think a lot of people are either going to be frustrated, or not capable,” he said.

Ray Sweetman, of West Central Sanitation, one of the two companies that bid for Lyon County’s recycling contract, also addressed commissioners at the meeting.

Using a roll-off collection service was something that some Minnesota counties were getting away from, because they couldn’t get the recyclables compacted, Sweetman said. He also said he thought it would cost more than $2 million over five years for the county to collect its own recyclables.

Commissioner Charlie Sanow said there would be some up-front costs to Schroeder’s proposal. But, he said, “Over the next five years, the cost is dramatically reduced.”

Maybe the county would go back to curbside recycling pickup “someday,” Sanow said. But right now there’s no longer a market for recyclables, and it drives up the cost to collect them, he said.

Maybe people needed to start taking more responsibility for generating less recyclable waste, Sanow said.

Commissioner Steve Ritter asked if the county was going to hold a public hearing on the proposal.

“We’ve been pushing recycling for 30 years,” Ritter said. The new proposal was a big change, and the public should have a chance to comment on it, he said.

“So, we stop recycling for two months to have a public hearing?” Sanow said. It would take time to advertise and conduct the hearing.

Ritter also asked where the funds for the recycling proposal would come from. Schroeder said the budgeted funds for recycling for the remaining months of this year could go toward the proposal, but some money would have to come from landfill reserve funds. In the future, solid waste fees from the landfill could help go toward the cost of recycling, he said. Fees could possibly be raised to help offset the costs.

Sanow moved to order containers to collect recyclables for $150,000 or less. The vote passed 4-1, with Ritter casting the vote against.

The next two items to vote on were to purchase a truck with a roll-off lift or hook-lift, and to advertise for someone to drive the truck, Schroeder said. However, Schroeder didn’t yet have specifications for a truck, so commissioners said that would have to wait until their next meeting.

Sanow moved to advertise for a new county employee to haul recyclables. The motion passed unanimously.

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