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Crow Wing County Board: Landfill closure hassles hauler

Part of the Waste Partners fleet of trucks. Image from Waste Partners website.

The owner of a Pine River-based garbage company aired a grievance with the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday concerning a planned closure of the landfill.

Eric Loge, owner of Waste Partners, said he was frustrated the landfill would be closed Jan. 2, 2017, in recognition of New Year's Day. Loge said more than 10 other landfills would be open that day, along with most retail locations, health care clinics and his own bank.

"That's not New Year's Eve, that's not New Year's Day, that's the day after New Year's Day," Loge said. "It's pretty much a normal day in most people's world, and garbage needs to be picked up."

Loge said he learned of the closure earlier this month, which did not give him enough time to inform his customers of the change. He likened garbage pickup to a public utility and said he felt as though the closure was not being considered from the hauler's perspective. Although some companies may have one or two extra trucks to hold the garbage, Loge said his company was scheduled to pick up 11 loads that Monday morning with nowhere to keep it.

"It doesn't make sense in our industry," Loge said. "If the fire chief wanted the day off, the fire department would still operate. If the police department chief wanted the day off, the police department would still operate. If the utilities of water and light wanted to have the day off, the utilities would still operate. And that's what I'm talking about here."

Loge said when he brought up this issue with landfill staff, he was told a hauler's manual outlining policies noted if a holiday falls on a Sunday, it could be observed the following day. Loge said the manual also states the landfill will be closed other holidays, but that practice is not followed. He gave the example of July 4, 2015, which was a Saturday. The landfill was open that day for a few hours.

He said although the county has mostly been accommodating in the past, this issue brought him before the county board for the first time in 34 years.

Commissioner Paul Thiede asked Loge whether he gives his employees the day off when a holiday falls on a weekend. Loge said he would, and if Christmas fell on a Wednesday, he would shift the pickup schedule by a day so Wednesday's pickups would occur on Thursday, for example.

"In this particular instance ... it shouldn't affect our industry really at all," Loge said. "And that's why everyone is operating across the state of Minnesota."

Commissioner Paul Koering asked Marvin Stroschein, landfill operator, to speak to Loge's concerns.

"If there's a problem, we need to correct it," Koering said, asking Stroschein whether he'd heard from other haulers servicing Crow Wing County. "If they're all up in arms, then I would think you have a problem."

Stroschein was seated in the county board room and approached the microphone. He ran through numerous contacts with other hauling companies and indicated none of the others shared Loge's concern about the Monday closure. He said if anything, he heard other haulers saying they would rather it be open for a short while on Saturday, New Year's Eve.

Nisswa Sanitation has a transfer station where they can hold the garbage, Stroschein said, and Pequot Sanitation planned to work with the landfill schedule. Waste Management intended to hold garbage in its trucks until Tuesday morning.

"I didn't see it any different than Thanksgiving weekend when we had one day off for Thanksgiving," Stroschein said. "This has been an ongoing problem, and it's only about every four or five years, when we land on a weekend. ... It's something that's there that in the future, we need to talk about and work with it and maybe put it into the contract that we are there a certain number of hours."

According to what Stroschein presented, the last two times New Year's Day fell on a Sunday—in 2006 and 2012—the landfill was open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. the following Monday.

Koering asked Chris Pence, land services supervisor, whether there was a provision in the contract for when a hauler wanted to bring in garbage outside typical hours.

Pence said both the hauler's manual and the contracts with haulers note they can make arrangements to bring garbage in at a cost of $100 per truck.

Loge said this would be expensive for him with 11 loads of garbage.

"I'm the only one large enough that doesn't have their own transfer station," Loge said. "Garrison (Disposal) and Waste Management love that I have this problem. It's something that I can't do, that they can."

Chairman Doug Houge informed Loge the board does not take action on matters raised during open forum.

In other business, the county board:

Renewed a contract with the Heartland Animal Rescue Team to impound dangerous dogs in Crow Wing County. The contract remained the same—$50 per day for each animal impounded for a maximum of 10 days. If an owner claims their dog, they pay those fees. If the dog is not claimed, the county pays the impound fee, veterinary charge, euthanasia and disposal cost.

Acting as the township board for the unorganized territories, the board also approved a contract with HART to impound stray dogs located within those areas. The impound fee is $16 per day and a monthly administrative fee is $683.88.

The county board did not discuss a recent denial for the inclusion of Donna Wambeke, executive director of HART, on a meeting agenda. Wambeke wished to discuss the possible implementation of a stray cat ordinance in light of recent financial strain on the animal shelter. The matter was discussed at a Baxter City Council meeting when Wambeke presented, setting off a series of back-and-forth exchanges over whether the county was contributing enough to alleviate the shelter's financial woes.

Hosted a public hearing on the vacation of utility and drainage easements between four lots on Landmark Drive, intersected with Highway 371 north of Brainerd International Raceway. The current owner intends to sell the lots to be developed as one site. A representative of the property owner, attorney J. Brad Person, was available for questions but otherwise no one spoke. The board approved a resolution declaring the vacation.

Approved a final payment to Anderson Brothers Construction for its work on county highways 9 and 44. The final contract amount was $1,229,678, which was 3.2 percent above the original contract amount of $1,191,832—an overrun of $37,846. At Tuesday's meeting, County Engineer Tim Bray explained the overrun was attributed to unforeseen issues with County Highway 9's road bed, which was too weak and required strengthening. Bray said a vendor was set to provide a chemical additive to improve the road bed, but when permitting issues on behalf of the vendor caused that to fall through, the contractor used other materials.

Approved a final payment to Midwest Contracting for its work on a bridge on County Road 122. The final contract amount was $303,601, which was 2.6 percent below the original contract amount—a difference of $5,055.

Removed three tax-forfeited parcels from the North Long Lake Memorial Forest for the purpose of selling them at a public auction. In November, the board approved reclassifying the parcels as non-conservation.

Approved the 2017 stand exam plan, which identifies forest stands to be considered for timber sale in county-owned forests. The plan calls for 1,427 acres of forest to be examined in 2017.

Authorized a grant agreement between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the sheriff's office for equipment funding in the amount of $13,615. The equipment is specific to federal boating safety.

Authorized a grant agreement between the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the sheriff's office for funding in the amount of $103,780 for the 2016 State Homeland Security Program. The grant will support costs associated with the bomb squad.

Authorized a grant agreement between Crow Wing County, the Region Five-Plus Mental Health Initiative and the Minnesota Department of Human Services to support costs associated with the adult mental health plan. The total grant award is $2,919,880 for a two-year grant cycle.

Approved a grant contract for the Region Five-Plus adult and children's crisis response for 2017. The grant is between Region Five-Plus, Crow Wing County and DHS.

Supported the lawful gambling application for an exempt permit for the Brainerd Jaycees for the $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.

Renewed tobacco licenses in the county for 2017.

Reappointed Paul Herkenhoff as the county surveyor. The appointment is for a four-year term.

Accepted the promotion of Alicia Isom to social worker in community services.

Approved the hiring of James Sipper, highway maintenance specialist.

Accepted the departure of Brenda Erickson, financial worker in community services. The board also approved replacement staffing for the financial worker position and a program specialist in community services.

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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