County agrees to raise solid waste fees starting 2023

Published 5:58 pm Friday, October 14, 2022

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Increase will help fill gap from lower sales of existing materials

The Mower County Board of Commissioners have approved a $2 price hike in solid waste fees for recycling during its Tuesday morning meeting.

The price hike is an effort to account for a gap in revenue created by lower or nonexistent material sales.

The raise will increase the current $6.50 per point fee to $8.50 per point, which will take effect in 2023. The increase is projected to create around $275,000 in additional funding to the $750,000 currently being raised through fees.

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Properties throughout Mower County are assigned points based on the type of property. For example, a multi-unit housing complex, which includes duplex and triplex housing with non-curbside service is assigned five points while those with curbside service are assigned eight points.

That rate is then multiplied by the number of points of the property.

It’s one of four ways the county generates funds through recycling, which also includes $120,000 from a state recycling incentive, host fees from the SKB-operated landfill that comes out to around $70,000 a year and recycling material sales which accounts for around $178,000.

However, those three funding sources can be erratic leaving recycling fees as the only reliable way to generate funds.

“Three of the four sources are not consistent,” said County Administrator Trish Harren, adding: “Recycling is supposed to be self-sufficient. We can’t levy for the cost to run that department.”

In particular, there has been a steep drop off in recycling materials sales with cardboard and plastic dropping to nearly zero.

“There’s not a demand for plastic right now. Cardboard, tin aluminum have dropped,” said Solid Waste Officer Marcus Thompson to the board on Tuesday. “We have no choice but to go with cardboard.”

The likely reason Thompson said is many of the places purchasing these materials have stockpiled and have no need for more.

“This summer it went way up. People were overbuying,” Thompson said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with recycling. It’s on the back end and the need of material.”

The other piece of the price hike relates to keeping Mower County’s recycling operation up to date, which includes replacing aging equipment and a hope of increasing the percentage of recycling from 36% currently to as high as 50% in the future  Harren said.

There’s also been talk of possible future expansion or even relocation to accommodate those items the Recycling Center currently doesn’t take, like tires.

“We barely have enough money to break even with the operations of it,” Harren said. “We also have to be responsible to do a little bit of planning.”

“Overall the goal is to reduce the waste stream,” she added.