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J. Shane Mercer, Published September 21 2007

Expansion may help trash plan

Hopes for a regional approach to dealing with garbage disposal are still very much alive and could include a 70-acre expansion of Clay County’s landfill.

“The regional concept won’t happen without the horizontal expansion,” Clay County Commissioner Kevin Campbell, who serves as the facilitator for the regional panel, said Tuesday.

The numbers tell why. The interested parties include Moorhead along with Becker, Clay, Otter Tail and Hubbard counties. That group could send more than 250 tons of garbage per day, five days a week, to a regional facility, according to a memo from consulting group Wenck Associates. At that rate, the current landfill is estimated to reach capacity within a decade. But with proposed expansions of the landfill upward and outward, Wenck estimates that it would last for about 45 years or much longer if the tonnage were lowered.

And that long-term capacity and the cost to use the landfill are the two questions that Otter Tail County needs to have answered before signing onto the project, said Mike Hanan, Solid Waste Director for Otter Tail County.

The Clay County Solid Waste Advisory Committee has “already recommended setting aside dollars to purchase additional land” to expand the current landfill, Campbell said.

Of course, the expansion won’t come free. Development of additional landfill space, an associated building and the purchase of a garbage baler would cost more than $5 million, according to estimates in the Wenck Associates memo.

Maintenance and operational costs would be about

$2 million per year at 250 tons-per-day, the memo states. If some parties opted to go elsewhere with some of their garbage, the cost would go down though the per-ton cost for operating the facility would go up.

The cost for participating parties to use the 250-ton system is estimated to be $39 to $43 per ton of garbage. The current fee for the Clay County landfill is $40 per ton.

The consultant is looking into whether there are additional taxes for several counties, which could drive up the fee projection. The numbers could also go up if they went with a lower tonnage facility.

Fargo, West Fargo and Grand Forks had taken part in past discussions but have opted out of the talks, at least for now. The North Dakota cities did, however, leave the door open to future regional possibilities if they were cost effective.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734