The place where garbage in Todd County goes to die – or is recycled – needs major improvements, according to Todd County Solid Waste leaders.
They are proposing a $9.5 million project to upgrade and expand the Todd County transfer station in Browerville. They’re asking the state to cover $5.9 million of the cost and local dollars would pay the rest.
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, they pitched their plan to a key group of legislators, the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee, which made a stop in Alexandria to listen to the proposal and ask questions. The committee, made up of 10 Republican senators and eight DFLers, helps decide which projects will be funded through the state’s Capital Assistance Program.
Chris McConn, Todd County Solid Waste director, and Jeremy Clasemann, the county's solid waste supervisor, stressed that the project is a need, not a want.
“This is not a Taj Mahal or something extravagant,” McConn told the senators. “This is what we need.”
The area lacks resources for processing recyclables and composting organic food waste, according to McConn and Clasemann. The nearest services are in Polk County, 150 miles northwest, or in St. Cloud, 60 miles southeast.
The facility’s existing building was constructed in 1988, exclusively for transporting municipal solid waste. Since then, it’s been modified several times. Right now, it’s being used as a material recovery facility or MRF and the tonnage of wage has increased significantly.
The facility processed 600 tons of recyclables in 2018. By the end of August 2019, it processed 1,200 tons, and it's projected to process 2,300 tons by year's end.
The building, said McConn, is functionally obsolete, severely congested and non-compliant with building regulations.
He listed several examples: too small of a tipping floor, insufficient storage space, only one overhead door that’s too short, too low of a ceiling, no fire suppression systems, and a dangerous location where foot traffic and yard traffic are intersecting.
The recycling facility, McConn added, is also too small, has non-functional access doors, limited storage and obsolete equipment.
Proposed improvements include:
A new waste transfer station with a larger tipping floor (where garbage is unloaded) and office space.
A new household hazardous waste facility.
A new scale house for weighing garbage, along with a 70-foot truck scale.
Improved safety, traffic routing and code compliance.
Renovating the existing building into a MRF with new, higher capacity equipment.
Construction of a source-separated organics material compost pad.
The project, McConn and Clasemann said, would have a regional focus, allowing Todd County to not only serve its residents but also those of neighboring counties, including Otter Tail, Wadena, Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Pope, Stearns and Kandiyohi.
This regional participation would increase recycling and composting in all those areas, according to McConn and Clasemann. They said it would also increase efficiencies, allow tree brush to be composted instead of burned and ultimately, divert more materials from being dumped in a landfill.
Whether Todd County’s proposal will be funded is up in the air. The competition for CAP dollars is stiff – state agencies and local governments are requesting a total of $5.3 billion for the next legislative session. Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management is proposing an $18.9 million expansion and renovation project and is seeking $8 million in CAP funding (see related story).
Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who is a member of the Capital Investment Committee, said that out of the 400-some projects proposed, the committee will end up making about 200 visits to communities around the state to hear the proposals first-hand.
“We’ll be looking at a lot of other projects on the docket,” Ingebrigtsen said, adding that the Alexandria Runestone Community Center’s $5.6 million request for a third sheet of ice is also in the mix.