Last week, the Aitkin County Board of Commissioners approved a new recycling contract with Waste Management of Minnesota. For more than 30 years, the county’s recyclables had been processed by the Garrison Disposal Company.

Garrison Disposal informed the county late last year that it could no longer provide recycling services for Aitkin County.

Garrison Disposal Company Controller David MacArthur detailed why the company decided not to continue.

“The answer is three-fold,” he said. “One: the revenue is equal to the costs. There is no profit.”

This year, he explained, several dozen recycling containers need to be replaced; each is about $5,000.

“The capital expenditure is just huge for a business that doesn’t generate a profit,” he said.

Another reason is the local labor market.

“It’s very hard to find competent people to work anywhere, let alone ones that can drive forklifts, tractors and things like that,” MacArthur said.

Finally, MacArthur said, the company struggled with the contamination of the recycled material from the public.

“People are putting things in there like garden hoses,” he said. “Anything that’s plastic people think is recyclable, like a cooler.

“The contamination is so abusive that when we bring the stuff to market, I have to pay to get rid of it,” he added.

In December, the board had solicited bids for the operation of the recycling center and drop-off sites. The only bid received by the Jan. 14 deadline was from Waste Management of Minnesota.

The new annual contract is $150,000, an approximately 50% increase over previous years.

“The only significant changes were the increased costs,” said Mark Wedel, the chairman of the board. “And the fact that the recycling center will remain open on Saturdays year-round. It is important for the convenience of the public. For many, Saturday is the only day people have to go.”

SUMMER

CONSTRUCTION MEANS DETOURS

This summer, construction work will shut down westbound traffic on Hwy. 210 from Aitkin to Deerwood.

The MnDOT project, set to begin in July, includes concrete rehabilitation, bituminous patching work and some culvert replacements.

Westbound traffic will be detoured south on Hwy. 169, then west on County Road 11 to Crow Wing County Road 14, and back up Hwy. 6 to Deerwood.

The detour will be in place on weekdays until October.

Wetland Banking

Quinstar Investment Partners LLC, along with Westwood Professional Services, has started the lengthy process to restore a privately-owned former wetland back to its natural state.

The owners will make the restored wetland available for a one-time transaction to buyers needing to offset development and construction damages to an existing wetland.

This type of wetlands banking came into being with the 1992 Wetland Conservation Act. The goal: no net loss of wetlands.

“This is very early in the process,” said Becky Sovde, a wetland specialist at Aitkin County Planning and Zoning. “Right now, this is a 22-page document and by the time we are done it will be a 4-inch-thick file.”  

The next stage will be for Quinstar to provide the county with more information, including a contour survey of the area.

The land is located just north of the airport, so Quinstar will need to address any concerns raised by both the Aitkin Technical Evolution panel and the FAA.

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