The Nisswa City Council continues to struggle with how to offer recycling services next year.

Crow Wing County will eliminate all but two recycling sites in 2021, including Nisswa’s dropoff site behind the fire hall. County dropoff recycling sites will remain at the county landfill in Brainerd and the Ideal Transfer Station in Ideal Township.

The county did give an option for cities to have their own sites and receive a 50% cost match from the county (estimated $35,750); however, cities would have to use the hauler the county contracts with for recycling service.

Waste Partners, the city’s current provider, quoted $70,00 to provide city recycling services in 2021.

Questions the city has when considering a 2021 budget include whether to keep a recycling site at the current location behind the fire hall - it’s outgrowing this location - or find a new location, such as adjacent to the sewer plant.

The city would need to consider upfront capital costs, security, staffing, etc.

The city could have recycling as an enterprise fund generating its own revenue.

Or, the city could require haulers to offer recycling services along with garbage service, which is what Pequot Lakes has done for several years, and Crosslake just agreed to do the same.

Recycling discussions will continue, including by the public works committee.

In other budget discussions Wednesday, July 15, City Administrator Jenny Max outlined the following potential “new” items for 2021:

  • Police department: equipment upgrades (cameras), $10,000; new employee (administrative assistant), $60,000. While there likely isn’t 40 hours of work per week for a new employee in the police department, the employee could undertake other duties at city hall as well.

  • Highways and streets: supplies/equipment, $50,000.

  • Recycling center: $35,750.

  • Parks/community center (transfer to): $20,000.

  • Commission/committee pay: $7,000.

Max presented three potential draft budgets:

  • 3.74% budget increase ($113,582) and 7.13% levy increase ($175,782). This includes all new items listed above except the police department staff member.

  • 5.71% budget increase ($173,199) and 9.55% levy increase ($235,399). This includes all new items, including the new police department staff member.

  • 1.10% budget increase and 3.88% levy increase ($95,606). This includes a commission/committee pay increase and corrected public works supplies and equipment as the only new items.

Max said a 2% cost of living adjustment and 7.41% health insurance contribution increase would raise the budget 1%.

Council member Don Jacobson said he would not vote for anything over a zero percent levy increase, and he suggested for one year using the city’s unallocated funds to help supplement the budget. The coronavirus has affected citizens’ jobs and their abilities to pay bills, he said.

Mayor Fred Heidmann said a 1% levy increase “won’t kill anybody.” He’d like to see a zero percent levy increase, too, but doesn’t know if that’s realistic. He suggested looking at areas where the city spends an increasing amount of money each year and asking if the city needs to keep offering those services. He recommended cutting items from the budget.

Heidmann said he’d target a 3% or less budget increase.

The council continues to wrangle with the idea of using unallocated funds to supplement the budget, with Jacobson advocating that idea and Heidmann against it.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.