Should groups distributing food to those in need have to pay to dispose of the boxes and plastic left over at the county landfill?
This question arose amid a discussion during the Tuesday, April 13, Crow Wing County Board meeting, concerning a landfill fee rebate policy for nonprofit organizations. The policy — which the board approved for a one-year trial period in 2019 — allows nonprofits with a Crow Wing County location serving low-income individuals with free or reduced price goods to apply for up to a $1,000 rebate for disposing items at the landfill.
During the trial period, $1,000 was returned to one organization — Salem WEST, a Deerwood-based organization providing household goods and clothing to area families in need. The board was to decide whether to institute the policy permanently Tuesday, but Commissioner Doug Houge asked whether exceptions could be made for groups without 501(c)(3) status accomplishing similar community outreach work.
Houge said he was approached by a group providing weekly food distribution events in Crosby, who reported they’d paid $150 per week for months to dispose of leftover cardboard and plastic shrink wrap. Because they’re not formally organized, they do not qualify for the rebate program, Houge noted.
“Today they’re stuck paying for the landfill fees, and I find that kind of tough when they’re out volunteering — dozens of volunteers helping out the community right now — that they’re stuck with a landfill bill on top of it,” Houge said.
Commissioner Paul Koering said he understood Houge’s position, but he worried this could lead to many more organizations wanting free disposal.
“I just think we’re opening it up where if we do it for one then we’re doing it for all these nonprofits, and I just don’t know that I agree with that,” Koering said. “I just think we’re opening up a Pandora’s box of nonprofits of saying, ‘I’m a nonprofit, what about me, why can’t I get rid of my waste out there?’ I don’t support it.”
Chairman Steve Barrows suggested the board could discuss Houge’s situation at a later time than as part of the rebate policy conversation.
“We don’t know what the future is going to be, is the issue I think with some of these. Will they be continuing into the future?” Barrows said. “I certainly have sympathy or empathy with what they’re doing.”
Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said the group Houge mentioned met two of the three criteria set out in the policy and she’d like to see the county’s land services department take a look at how this situation might be incorporated before the board made a decision. Franzen made a motion to table the request for board action, which was seconded by Koering. All commissioners agreed.
In other business, the county board:
Authorized the county engineer to take steps to acquire right of way along the County Road 115 corridor — otherwise known as Ojibwa Road. Plans for construction and improvements along that county road are planned for 2023 and 2024.
Approved a resolution establishing priority of bridge projects eligible for state bonding or township bridge funding, as required by state law. In this case, the term bridge refers to not only an elevated span crossing a river or lake channel, but also can refer to a culvert. Atop the priority list is the bridge crossing the Nokasippi River on County Highway 23 between Upper South Long Lake and South Long Lake. Construction is proposed to take place this year.
Approved a change order to the contract with Pratt’s Affordable Excavating Inc./Borden Excavating Inc. for excavation and other improvement work underway at the county landfill. The majority of the changes in cost came by way of stormwater improvements on site, according to a request for board action. A total of $141,829.16 was added to the overall cost of the project, which now stands at $4,960,785.99. Design changes identified during construction also pushed out the final completion date to June 30.
Authorized entering a contract with Traffic Marking Services Inc. for pavement markings on county highways 10, 11, 30, 31, 36 and 27 and county roads 124 and 128, for an expected cost of $119,057.92.
Approved a new on sale and Sunday liquor license application for Evergreen Property LLC, doing business as Fireside Bar, in Timothy Township.
Accepted a $250 donation from the Nickisch family to be used for improvements or maintenance to the Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park in Pequot Lakes.
Approved the hirings of Holly Parker, senior administrative specialist in community services, and Neal Rudolph, household hazardous waste technical assistant for land services.
Approved the promotion of Mike Erickson to financial worker in community services.
Accepted the departures of Laura Donahue, geographical information system specialist, and Clayton Caird, 911 communications officer. The board also approved replacement staffing for these positions.