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Recycling Option Not Moving Fast for County

By Staff | Nov 3, 2015

The need for county recycling was again a major topic at the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors regular meeting on Tuesday, October 27.

Palo Alto County Sanitarian Joe Neary was on hand to update the Supervisors regarding progress on county recycling and what can possibly be done going forward to continue recycling in Palo Alto County in 2016.

“Vans Sanitation and Recycling from LeMars was here last Tuesday, October 20 and had a meeting with Horizons to look at the possibility of contracting recycling with Palo Alto County,” Neary said. “They reviewed the site, facilities and building appraisal and reviewed books to get an idea of the tonnage that Horizons goes through a month, monthly income, and monthly contracting.”

“Basically, there is not a lot of money to be made in recycling at this time so Vans is looking at ways of potentially utilizing the Horizons facilities to the fullest possible potential,” Neary said.

“Did they give you any ideas of what else they might use it for?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked.

“No. They are in the solid waste business, but I don’t think that would be an option here. They are looking at what recycling could be brought in to the existing facilities,” Neary said.

“Did you actually come in and meet with them?” Supervisor Linus Solberg questioned.

“I was gone that day. He met with Horizons,” Neary responded.

“But you didn’t come in and meet with him yourself?” Solberg asked.

“Nope. I was gone that day,” Neary responded.

“Well, I was just wondering if you were there so that you actually met him face to face,” Solberg commented. “I think they are interested in using the facility for other counties besides ours. I believe he told Ron that he would employ some of the people out there, which would be very, very good for us.”

“They were a little disappointed that the city had already signed someone because they would have liked that tonnage also,” Solberg added. “He would use it for more counties than just Palo Alto and Pocahontas.

“I also talked to Mike Flannegan yesterday and he is waiting to see what Horizons is going to do as far as selling the facilities. He thought they were having a meeting last night and so did I, but I haven’t gotten a response back yet today,” Neary said.

“So right now Mike is still investigating the possibility for the building, etc.?” Supervisor Chair Craig Merrill asked.

“Yes. He’s looking at what he has, what he will need, and how long it may take to get something built or the possibility of purchasing the Horizons property,” Neary responded. “If this were a horse race, I think right now Shamrock would be considered the front runner but Vans could potentially do something that would blow that out of the water.”

“Do we know has Mike put an actual figure on a contract? People keep calling me about a price on a contract,” Solberg asked.

“Mike put a proposal on the Supervisors table and then pulled it. He proposed a five-year plan starting out at 30.5 cents per capita. The city is 16.5 cents per household for a processing fee,” Neary said.

“Vans and Shamrock need to decide what they are going to do,” Merrill said.

“Horizons needs to decide what they are doing,” Supervisor Ed Noonan commented.

“It’s my understanding that the city will continue to have curb side pick for recycling and then Shamrock will have containers around town for people to put recycling in and then pick them up when full,” Emmetsburg City Councilman Mike Hermansen stated.

The Board decided that it was time they started to push a little to get something done. With advice from Palo Alto County Attorney Peter Hart on what constitutes a closed meeting, they unanimously voted for two closed door meetings, one with Vans and one with Shamrock to discuss plans and purchasing possibilities, set for November 17 at 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

In other business, Hermansen addressed the Board regarding septic waste being put into the lake.

“Are you aware of any septic tanks dumping into the lake?” Hermansen asked.

“No, if we were we would have acted on it,” Neary said.

“There was a presentation by Jeremy Thilges, Field Technician for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a short time ago and he informed the city council of 22 homes on the north side of the lake that dump their septic tanks into the lake,” Hermansen said.

“How does he know this?” questioned Noonan.

“That’s kind of his job, water quality,” Hermansen replied.

“They did a water shed investigation and I personally stayed away from it because if I knew anything then I would be the authority,” Neary said. “Over time a lot of changes have been made and it would be less than 22 at this time.”

“City Administrator John Bird was asked about it last night. He said there were five or six homes that were doing this and when Rockport was built, the city adopted a code restricting this from happening,” Hermansen said. “That leaves about 15 homes on the north end of the lake that are potentially still doing this.”

“Are they in the city or the county?” Noonan asked.

“There is no one doing this that is in the city,” Hermansen responded.

“Ok, it’s our deal then,” Noonan stated.

“When you say dumping in the lake, what do you mean by that?” Noonan asked.

“It goes from the septic tank through a tile to a farm tile and then into the lake. This is what we have seen from property that has been sold and had to have the septic system redone before the sale could be completed,” Neary responded.

“So you think it is possible for all 15 homes to be going into a farm tile and into the lake?” Noonan asked.

“That would be a good guess,” Neary responded.

“If I have knowledge of it, I have to investigate it. They tried to do this with Silver Lake to improve the watershed. I stayed away from it because if I’m there then I’m the law,” Neary said. “I don’t investigate until I’ve been told.”

“So actually, you’ve been told, right now, that there are approximately 15 homes that are dumping into the lake and you need to investigate,” Noonan said.

In final business, the need for an ordinance addressing wind energy devices in the county was a discussed. Palo Alto County Zoning Officer Joe Neary and Palo Alto County Attorney Peter Hart were on hand to discuss a preliminary ordinance. After reviewing a proposed ordinance, it was decided that the Planning and Zoning Commission would hold a public meeting on November 16 to hear input from county residents regarding to be followed by a resolution meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24.