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Private management of MRF facility?

Our view: It’s another option for the county, along with restructuring

After nearly a decade in an economy marked by recessions and near depressions, it’s unusual to hear the phrase “growing pains” in public discussions.
But it is one we are hearing more frequently. We’ve heard it at Trailblazer Transit meetings with the growth into Wright County and, last week, we heard it a meeting of McLeod County’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which is comprised of the county board members.
The solid waste department and its materials recovery facility (MRF) have been growing in volume of commodities taken in, if not in revenue or in staff.
The department recently made the switch to one-sort recycling from five-sort, and it continues to find new markets for items that we don’t typically think of as being recyclable — from fishing line to wine bottle corks to mattresses and, now, foam.
There has been a lot of talk about how to handle the changes in the department, which has been running without a director for nearly two years. That talk has ranged from hiring temporary employees to re-evaluating the staff structure with the classification study, to restructuring it with other departments and, now, there is talk about contracting with a private company to manage the MRF.
From the time the county entered into recycling, there has been some pushback from constituents who feel that recycling is best handled by a private waste hauler.
Proponents of county recycling have pointed out that the county is offering this as a service, not a profit maker, for county residents and businesses. And they have, rightfully so, pointed out that the program has run without the benefit of county property tax dollars.
The idea of contracting with a private company to manage the facility is an appealing one. A private company can, hopefully, provide some economic benefits. And retaining county ownership of the program, hopefully, can continue the county’s intention of providing a quality service to its constituents, not just a money-maker.
One would hope that turning over the management to a private firm would free up the County Board and staff to focus on what they do best — finding new ways to recycle our throwaways, without cost to our property tax payers, and to provide a service at little or no cost to our residents and businesses.
The County Board is encouraged to explore this option thoroughly, even as it continues to explore restructuring. Somewhere in all that exploration, the best solutions to the “growing pains” at the MRF will be found.
— L.C.