City, County Discuss Recycling Issue
The mayor and several city council members from the city of Emmetsburg were on hand at the regular meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. March 8.
A letter had been sent to the Board by the City prior to the meeting outlining concerns regarding per capita processing fees for the city.
“Could you explain the processing fees which you say here will be derived partially from the $10 per capita fee paid by the city?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked.
“And that is based on my conversation with Joe Neary,” City Administrator, John Bird replied. “In the past the processing fees the county would pay, correct me if I’m wrong Joe.”
“I don’t believe that’s how I stated it,” Sanitarian Joe Neary replied.
“OK, tell us how you did state it,” responded Bird.
“I’ve never found a connection between the processing fee and the $10 per capita and I went back to the 1990s,” Neary began. “I said that the per capita fee goes into my budget on the revenue side and how you connect that with expenses, and I talked to Carmen (Moser, County Auditor) about this, and rural services, the city taxpayers do not pay anything into that. The per capita fee in the past I’ve been told, the transfer station came into being, we set it off as a separate entity in the county. The cities paid a $10 per capita fee and the rural services (noncity taxpayer) pay a mill so that everyone has skin in the game. But I have never found a direct connection between the $10 per capita fee and the processing fee.”
“My question to you is how is the county going to cover the cost of processing pursuant to the agreement you (the county) made with Shamrock?” Bird asked. “How are you going to cover the expenses for the other incorporated communities in the county, excluding obviously West Bend and Cylinder because they didn’t want to be included? How is that 16.5 cents for those citizens that live in the incorporated towns be covered?”
“The tax dollars come from the rural fund levy,” Carmen Moser, Palo Alto County Auditor replied.
“So the rural citizens are going to pay for the incorporated towns like say Ruthven?” Bird questioned.
“We were paying Horizons $2,100 a month in our old contract and that was for the whole county minus West Bend,” Supervisor Craig Merrill responded.
“You were paying Horizons on behalf of us also?” Bird asked.
“Right, ” Merrill said.
“And the reason, you guys did a separate agreement with them,” Noonan said.
“We did yes,” Bird said.
“And so we didn’t include you guys because you had your own agreement,” Noonan finished.
“We tried to tell you to wait John,” Supervisor Chair Linus Solberg said.
“No one ever told us to wait,” Bird replied. “We did it on September 28 because nothing was happening on the County side.”
“But we were in conversation about it,” Noonan said.
“Our contract with Shamrock says that if the County enters into an agreement that ours will go away,” Bird said. “So you entered into an agreement”
“So you signed an agreement that said the County was going to pay for your agreement,” Noonan said.
“If the County entered into an agreement with Shamrock our agreement would be null and void,” Bird said.
“John, it doesn’t say that. What it says is that if the County signs an agreement at a higher per capita rate than you, your per capita rate would stay the same,” Neary noted.
“You agreed to the same 16.5 cent rate, right,” Bird said.
“The 16.5 cents was the same. I think you agreed to a four percent increase after a year and we negotiated a little differently,” Merrill said.
“So do you believe that the citizens of Emmetsburg should be treated differently than the citizens of Graettinger or Ruthven?” Bird asked.
“That’s not really the point. The point was is we had an agreement with Horizons and we paid them for the county. When we learned that Horizons was closing it was a situation that needed to be dealt with,” Merrill said. “And while we were in negotiations you guys went ahead and signed a contract. You can do that. After that we found Horizons was for sale and we looked at all avenues. We had until the end of the year and we met our deadline.”
“We wondered about the city of Emmetsburg when we signed the contract but we had no idea that your contract read that we were going to pay for Emmetsburg if we signed a contract.”
“Why wouldn’t you pay for Emmetsburg like you do the other towns because you always had?” Bird questioned.
“I understand that but you guys had signed a contract on your own,” Merrill said.
“We had on September 28, we were being told that by January 1 something had to be done,” Bird said.
“You guys made a quick decision, our decision took longer, but I don’t know how that equates with your contract gong null and void if we sign a contract and we not knowing anything about that,” Merrill stated. “We had no idea that your contract was going to go null and void. You could have come and talked to us about that but as far as I know that conversation never happened.”
“Is there an increased cost by having Emmetsburg part of the County’s contract?” asked Bill Burdick, Council Member.
“Well yeah somebody has to pay the bill,” Merrill said.
“$649 per month,” Neary said.
“Our question is, are you going to treat us the same as you treat the rest of the citizens in other towns in the county?” Bird asked.
“In my opinion, the short answer is yes, but that is only my opinion,” Merrill said.
“You (the city) won’t have a problem if people from the country come in and use the recycling trailer if we put one in town?” Noonan asked.
“No, we would let everyone in the county use it,” Bird said. “We just want to be treated like the other citizens in the county.”
With a little more discussion on where a trailer might possibly be parked, the Supervisors voted unanimously to pay the per capita fee for the City of Emmetsburg, bringing the discussion to a close.