Talkin’ trash in the county

Public hearing on solid waste fee increase draws full house
By: 
Mikaela Koski
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Garbage disposal may get a bit more expensive in Stillwater County.

Following the Stillwater County Commissioners’ agenda meeting on Tuesday, a public hearing was held to discuss the proposed fee increases recommended to the commissioners by the Solid Waste Board. The room was full, with about 30 people in attendance.

POLICY CHANGE

The amended solid waste policy adds disposal categories including personal yard debris, tree/brush trimmings, mattresses/box springs, chairs, and pallets. It also increases the fees for commercial yard debris, construction debris, carpet, tires, and barrels.

Solid Waste Supervisor Scott Waltner explained that the cost of solid waste services has continued to rise, but the Solid Waste Department has not increased its assessments (the fee county households pay to use the solid waste services) since 2006.

According to Waltner, the Solid Waste Department has been functioning in the black until last year. The department is now approximately $13,400 short, and that number will only continue to increase.

He also noted that the Solid Waste Board proposed the fee increases to try to ensure that those using the solid waste facilities more would pay more. If the assessment were increased, all 4,191 households would be affected, even if they produce relatively little garbage.

When asked by an audience member whether the Solid Waste Board knows if the proposed fee increases would cover the department’s financial shortfall, Waltner said the board hoped it would.

PROPONENTS

There were four citizens that spoke in favor of the proposed fee increases.

A recurring theme from the proponents was the fact that they personally do not create a lot of garbage, and so the user pays approach is fair. Those bringing in large items and using the facilities the most should pay more.

Russ Marlow, a solid waste employee, noted that most people who bring in personal yard debris, such as grass clippings, do not bring enough to get charged for under the proposed fee increases (a charge will incur on loads larger than one cubic yard).

OPPONENTS

The commissioners received 10 letters signed by a combined 26 citizens opposed to the fee increase. There were also 18 opponents from all ends of the county that voiced concerns in person at the public hearing.

Several of the opponents raised concerns about the creation of a fee for personal yard debris and tree/brush trimmings. Currently, there is no fee to bring in those items, and the proposed fee is $10 per cubic yard.

While some of the opponents agreed that there should be a fee on some of the larger items, such as mattresses or tires, they did not feel it was right to charge a fee for grass clippings or tree branches.

Large storm events can cause damage to trees, and several people did not feel it was fair to charge citizens for cleaning up their yards after an uncontrollable event, such as a wind or hail storm.

Other opponents said the fee increases were too large and would be cost prohibitive for many. Concerns were voiced that people who could not afford to pay the fees would begin dumping large trash items on the sides of roads or on private property.

About half of the opponents specifically said they believed raising the solid waste assessment a couple dollars per household per month would be a better way to solve the department’s financial shortfall than increasing fees.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

More information about the proposed solid waste policy changes can be found on the county’s website. The Solid Waste site can be found when using the search bar on the county’s home page, and the link to the proposed changes to Policy 8.0 can be found on the right side.

The commissioners will accept written comments from the public regarding the fee increases until Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 8:30 a.m.

A decision will be made that day at the 9 a.m. regularly scheduled agenda meeting.

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