Stearns County seeking imput on ordinance

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/20/98.

Over the past two years, the Stearns County Board of Commissioners and the Environmental Services Department staff have been working to develop a solid waste program which accomplishes the countyís fiscal and environmental goals.

The Environmental Services staff presented a revised draft to the Stearns County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 6. The board set a public hearing date for Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. in the commissionerís board room, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud, to consider adopting the proposed ordinances. Significant changes to the proposed county ordinances 193 and 194 were recently made dealing with provisions to allow self-hauling of solid waste.

In September 1997, the first draft of the ordinances contained a requirement for mandatory use of solid waste collection services, a provision which could have impacted many residents in Stearns County who either sparingly use collection service or choose to transport their own waste to appropriate facilities.

While the proposed ordinances addressed many other important solid waste issues, by far the one issue receiving the most public testimony was the provision for mandatory collection, eliminating self-hauling by residents.

In response to the public testimony in September, the Stearns County Board directed the staff to revise the ordinances and create a system in which county residents would be able to continue transporting their own solid waste to appropriate solid waste handling facilities. ďPeople felt strong about self- hauling at the first hearing,Ē Don Adams, director of the Stearns County Environmental Services, said. ďThose hauling their own solid waste are responsible for paying the expense at the drop site.Ē

The county is currently in the middle of negotiating contracts with waste haulers. The contracts are to insure that larger, more aggressive outside companies donít come in an undercut the prices of local haulers, Adams said. ďThree years ago haulers were complaining prices were too high and started hauling garbage out of state. The contracts help protect the prices for the haulers. The contracts donít hinder residents from selecting the haulers of their choice. The county arranges the disposal of garbage for the residents assuring them that if an environmental issue should arise from when garbage as hauled outstate, if wonít affect them,Ē Adams added.

Adams said he has been in contact with county waste haulers and some are satisifed with the proposed ordinances while others are not.

Don Williamson, West Central Sanitation, Willmar, was not happy to hear the county was trying to change the ordinances again. ďWhy fix something that isnít broke. All the garbage in the county is already going where the county wants it,Ē he added. ďIn a closer look at the ordinance, it leads one to believe the prospective ordinance is about more government control and continued limitations of citizen rights.Ē

ďI disagree with the reason stating the ordinance will provide more flexibility and the incentive to figure out ways to haul solid waste safer and cheaper, Williamson said. ďIt is also taking away the freedom of the citizens and cities to choose who will haul their trash.Ē

ďAt present, NSP is turning away garbage as they are getting too much to handle. West Central hauls Paynesvilleís and western Stearns County clientís garbage to Fergus Falls,Ē Williamson added.

Williamson stressed if the county really cared, they would leave the ordinance alone. ďPeople are already managing their solid waste the way the county desires, why change it?Ē he asked.

Anyone with questions regarding the ordinances, are urged to contact Dave Knafla or Don Adams of the Stearns County Environmental Services Depart-ment 320-656-3613 or 1-800-450-0852.

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