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Lyon County officials say offer from recycling hauler not a solution

MARSHALL — As members of the Marshall City Council talked about the future of recycling in Lyon County, some raised the possibility of Lyon County finding a way to continue curbside collection. One item included in the city council packets on Tuesday night — a short letter to the county from Southwest Sanitation — seemed to offer a potential solution.

The letter, dated Sept. 6 and signed by Scott Ritter and Dan Ritter of Southwest Sanitation, said Southwest would rescind its earlier intent to end a recycling contract with Lyon County.

But while Marshall city officials thought the letter might show possibilities for Lyon County to keep curbside recycling, Lyon County commissioners said the situation was more complicated.

Commissioner Gary Crowley said commissioners had been advised by their attorney that the county couldn’t accept the offer. The recycling contract had already been terminated by the time the Ritters sent the letter, Crowley said.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said Wednesday that recycling would be on the agenda for the commissioners’ next meeting September 17. Commissioners have not met in the time since the county got the letter from Southwest Sanitation, Stomberg said.

The events that led up to county commissioners opting to collect recyclables from drop sites around the county instead of curbside collection started earlier this summer. In June, Southwest Sanitation, which contracted with Lyon County to collect recyclables, gave notice that it would withdraw from its current contract that was set to expire at the end of 2020. The county took bids for recycling, which were discussed at the commissioners’ August 20 meeting. The bids that came in ranged from around $400,000 to $700,000 a year, compared to the county’s current recycling contract of $306,780 a year.

Commissioners rejected the bids and opted for the county to collect its own recycling instead. At their September 3 meeting, commissioners voted to buy roll-off containers for recyclable materials, and to advertise for a truck driver to haul the recycling.

Scott and Dan Ritter said they wrote the letter offering to stop Southwest Sanitation’s withdrawal from the recycling contract after the county board’s decisions last week. Dan Ritter said the letter was an attempt to keep the curbside service going for county residents.

“Once it stops, it’s going to be hard to get it back,” Scott Ritter said.

But Commissioners Gary Crowley and Charlie Sanow said Wednesday that it looked like the county wouldn’t be able to accept that offer to continue curbside recycling. Sanow said they had been advised by the Lyon County Attorney that “We, as a county, couldn’t do it legally.” By the time the county got the Ritters’ letter, the county had already received notice to terminate the recycling contract, and put the recycling program out for new bids, Sanow said.

Southwest Sanitation was one of the two companies that submitted recycling bids for Lyon County this summer.

Crowley said the county board’s decision wasn’t meant to encourage people not to recycle. Sanow said he and other commissioners were as passionate about recycling as Lyon County residents. However, he said, the county was trying to be cost-effective with its recycling program.

“We’re trying to do our due diligence,” he said. Lyon County could possibly go back to offering curbside pickup in the future, but it will take time to organize, Sanow said.

Dan and Scott Ritter said it’s also possible for individual cities to contract for recycling, if the county no longer offers curbside pickup.

Lyon County residents have been outspoken about wanting to keep curbside recycling over the past week, city and county officials said. At Tuesday’s Marshall city council meeting, Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said she had heard other cities in Lyon County planned to write letters of support for keeping curbside recycling pickup.

On Monday, the Tracy Council voted unanimously to send a letter to Lyon County officials urging them to continue curbside recycling.

However, as of Wednesday, Stomberg said he had not yet received letters from Lyon County cities.

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