Solid waste asks for 9 percent budget increaseMore garbage in means more costs going out for Douglas County next year, but not more taxes. County commissioners approved Tuesday the 2009 budget for Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
More garbage in means more costs going out for Douglas County next year, but not more taxes.
County commissioners approved Tuesday the 2009 budget for Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.
Operating costs at the nonprofit recycling and waste processing plant are expected to rise by 9 percent next year – nearly $364,000 – after jumping 11 percent from 2007 to 2008.
Revenues offsetting those added costs are also increasing, as the facility tries to keep pace with mounting demand for its services.
“The county is growing,” said Pete Olmscheid, PDSWM executive director. “And we as Pope/Douglas need to keep our solid waste infrastructure strong and be ready for the continued increases in solid waste that we see.”
Olmscheid said PDSWM’s 2009 budget increases are due to: rising health care rates, higher freight and fuel prices, renewal fees for air quality permits and needed grate and refractory repairs for the plant’s incinerator.
PDSWM will also make more money, he said, by bringing in more waste and upping the fee it charges trash collection companies for dumping their garbage there.
Robert McCrory, PDWSM board chairman, said the companies are likely to pass that expense – a 4 percent increase – on to their customers.
“People who have trash service are probably going to have to pay a little more as we go,” he said.
Operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, PDWSM processes up to 80 tons of waste per day.
Through September of 2008, the plant has received more than 24,500 tons of trash, 3 percent more than at that same time last year.
Originally projecting to collect 29,400 total tons of garbage this year, PDWSM now expects to exceed that amount, with the upward trend continuing in 2009.
PDSWM currently makes more money than it spends, but that revenue-to-expense gap may be decreasing.
This year the plant projects to earn roughly $50,000 in profits, but the 2009 forecast drops that figure to $8,000.
McCrory said operating a waste-to-energy facility like PDWSM costs more than running a traditional landfill, but the plant’s eco-friendly nature more than makes up for it.
“We continue to be able to take care of trash from two counties and do it very efficiently and effectively,” he said. “Doing something cleanly is a real asset, too – the trash is not piling up someplace in a landfill. We break it down and get rid of it”
Olmscheid said PDWSM generates 36,000 pounds of steam per hour from the trash it burns every day, most of which is sold to nearby Douglas County Hospital and the Alexandria 3M plant, where it’s used for heating and various mechanical production purposes.
PDSWM uses the extra steam in-house to generate most of the electricity the plant runs on.
“We are in a unique situation here at Pope/Douglas,” Olmscheid said. “Almost all other waste facilities in the state are desperately seeking buyers for their steam energy; we have people begging for it.”