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Solid waste fee doubles

Steve Vrchota

Starting this month, a $50 solid waste service fee increase will finally show up on property tax statements for residents in both Pope and Douglas counties. The annual fee, which was approved by the Douglas County Board last September, is increasing from $49 to $99.

"The large increase is needed because the fee has not been increased substantially since it was set at $45 in 1987," said Steve Vrchota, executive director of Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, the waste-to-energy facility on Jefferson Street in Alexandria. "Since that time, the number of residents using the services and level of services, however, has greatly increased."

Vrchota said the state of Minnesota sets solid waste and recycling mandates and gives counties the responsibility to meet those mandates. Since adoption of the Waste Management Act of 1980 by the Minnesota Legislature, counties across the state have been contending with new concepts in solid waste management and how to deal with them, he said.

Landfill closures and shipping distances have increased the costs of managing solid waste, and the Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management Board has adopted a progressive stand toward solving solid waste problems, according to Vrchota.

The solid waste service fee generates revenues to fund many different operations of the solid waste systems, including:

• Educational programs on recycling, household hazardous waste, composting and organics recycling.

• Operations of a permanent site household hazardous waste facility, recycling center and material recycling center, mobile household hazardous waste collection event and operations for event recycling.

• Support of curbside recycling.

• Collection sits for organic recycling, used motor oil and oil filters, and non-freon appliances and metals to be recycled.

Vrchota also said some of the additional funds from the increase in the solid waste service fee will help to cover costs of upgrades and modernization of the solid waste facility, which was originally built in 1987. He said the facility is expected to operate for at least another 30 years, but in order to achieve that, it will need significant repairs in the next few years.

The annual service fee will be assessed on all properties with a building value of $5,000 or more. Vrchota explained that most residents will see the service fee as an additional line on their property tax statements in the amount of $99.

Property owners who own multiple family, mobile homes or apartment units will see that item as a lump sum figure, which is the result of multiplying the number of units by $99. Owners of commercial and industrial buildings with a building value of more than $5,000 will also see the $99 annual fee.

The fee for services, said Vrchota, is not a tax and satisfies state laws.

For further questions about the service fee or any part of the solid waste program, contact Vrchota at 320-763-9340.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242