More room for ice skating.

A new venue for shows and entertainment.

More convenience and options for safely getting rid of household hazardous waste.

A better way of disposing food items.

All those benefits will soon be coming to Alexandria and Douglas County, after the Minnesota Legislature approved a $1.9 billion jobs and projects bill – commonly known as the bonding bill – last week.

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The projects in the Douglas County area include:

  • $5.6 million for a long-awaited expansion of the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria. It would add a third floor on the southwest side of the facility that could be used for ice and dry-floor events. This is the fourth or fifth time the legislation has been proposed. The total cost of the project is estimated at $10 million. The city, likely using tax abatement bonds, and private funds, raised by groups that use the facility, are expected to cover the rest of the cost.

  • $5 million for an expansion of the Pope-Douglas Solid Waste Management property. This would include a new organics composting facility in Douglas County and a new environmental learning center in Alexandria.

  • $4 million for Todd County to expand its solid waste facility transfer system and renovate its household hazardous waste facility.

Here’s a closer look at the projects:

RCC expansion

Kent Kopp of Alexandria has been on committees and boards that have been trying for about 12 years to expand the RCC – long after his children were no longer in hockey. He said he and others who have supported the project from the beginning wanted to keep pursuing it.

“Someone built the RCC for us and we benefited from it, so now it’s our turn to make it happen for another generation,” Kopp said.

When news broke that the RCC was in the final bonding bill, Kopp couldn’t have been happier.

“It’s been a long journey,” he said. “But it was really good news and we’re excited.”

In addition to meeting the surging demand for more ice time for hockey, figure skating and curling, the RCC will be able to host dry-floor events in the expansion area, such as the Henry’s Foods annual Pro Show, which will free up the ice arenas for skating and curling.

Besides creating new skating opportunities for children and adults, the RCC will be able to expand its economic impact. More hockey players and their families from the region and even out of state will travel here for tournaments, Kopp said.

“I’ve seen teams from Canada, Bismarck, Sioux Falls, western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota travel here to play,” Kopp said. “Our location is so convenient for so many people and we’re right off the interstate.”

Although the state grant was exciting to receive, now comes the other hard part, Kent said: Raising money, finalizing the design and negotiating with the city on the final costs of the project.

COVID-19 will make the fundraising more difficult, Kopp said, but the end result will pay big dividends – having a multi-use facility that will be enjoyed for generations.

Solid waste project

Last fall, when the Douglas County Board voted to support the project, it was estimated to cost $18.9 million. The county wanted the state to provide $8 million in funds and PDSWM would provide $10.9 million.

Because of concessions, Pope/Douglas and many other bonding requests to the state had to get broken into two phases, according to Nathan Reinbold, environmental coordinator with PDSWM.

The $5 million grant is essentially “phase one” of the project, Reinbold said, and includes:

  • Funding for phase two of the Glacial Ridge Compost Facility.

  • Construction of a new environmental learning center that consists of a household hazardous waste facility, problem materials handling/recycling, recycling drop-off, reuse room, and administration/board functions and services.

  • Construction of a new truck scale, software for the scale system, shipping and recycling functions within a new scale attendant building. A new entrance road off of Nokomis will accommodate truck traffic to serve the new scale area.

  • Demolition and removal of the existing household hazardous waste facility.

The project will provide critical infrastructure, Reinbold said. It also takes a regional approach by combining county waste management efforts, making them more efficient, he added.

“This will ‘right size’ facilities to reflect programs/services offered and address severe on-site congestion concerns,” Reinbold said.

Pope/Douglas residents will have easier access to getting rid of problem materials – appliances, electronics, mattresses, scrap metal – by using a covered one-way in, and a one-way unloading lane within the environmental center.

Dumpsters will be at waist height to create easier access and mobility.

“This will create a one-stop-shop to be able to handle and process more items,” Reinbold said.

The hazardous waste facility will have the potential to accept more business hazardous waste items, which will be more economical for area businesses, he added.

A single-sort recycling drop will align with current curbside recycling standards.

“Creating easy to use programs that are accessible to residents will create more positive behaviors of recycling and waste handling acceptance, while decreasing negative behavior that impacts our environment, like littering, dumping items in ditches/lakes, and on-site burial of waste that will leach into the groundwater,” Reinbold said.

PDSWM will pursue the second phase of bonding grants at the 2021 legislative session, according to Reinbold. It will seek $4 million to complete the campus retrofits, renovation and expansion of its materials recycling facility.

Todd County transfer station

The grant to Todd County will help pay for a $9.5 million upgrade and expansion of its transfer station in Browerville.

When county officials pitched their plan to the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee last fall, they stressed the project was a need, not a want, saying the area lacks resources for processing recyclables and composting organic food waste.

The facility’s existing building was constructed in 1988, exclusively for transporting municipal solid waste. Since then, it’s been modified several times. Right now, it’s being used as a material recovery facility or MRF and the tonnage of wage has increased significantly.

Proposed improvements include:

  • A new waste transfer station with a larger tipping floor (where garbage is unloaded) and office space.

  • A new household hazardous waste facility.

  • A new scale house for weighing garbage, along with a 70-foot truck scale.

  • Improved safety, traffic routing and code compliance.

  • Renovating the existing building into a materials recycling facility with new, higher capacity equipment.

  • Construction of a source-separated organics material compost pad.

According to Todd County waste management leaders, the project would have a regional focus, allowing Todd County to not only serve its residents but also those of neighboring counties, including Otter Tail, Wadena, Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Pope, Stearns and Kandiyohi.

This regional participation would increase recycling and composting in all those areas, according to waste management leaders. They said it would also increase efficiency, allow tree brush to be composted instead of burned and ultimately, divert more materials from being dumped in a landfill.