Douglas County commissioners weren’t the only ones who heard the pitch for a $18.9 million expansion and renovation project from Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.
A key group of lawmakers who control the state’s purse strings for such projects also learned about the expansion Tuesday, along with a $9.5 million proposal from Todd County Solid Waste to upgrade and expand its transfer station facility.
The Minnesota State Senate Capital Investment Committee – comprised of 10 Republican Senators and eight DFLers – made a stop in Alexandria to listen to the proposals and ask questions.
Pope/Douglas officials are asking for a state grant of $8 million through the Capital Assistance Program to help pay for the project. They plan to issue bonds to cover the rest of the cost, along with increasing the tipping fees, the charges that garbage haulers pay to dispose waste.
Meanwhile, Todd County is seeking $5.9 million from the state and will provide $3.5 million in local funding.
Two of the committee members, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who represent parts of Douglas County, expressed some optimism that something will be done in the next legislative session to address the mounting challenge of storing, hauling, sorting and disposing of garbage.
“While it might not be at the forefront of our minds, safe, efficient, and environmentally sensitive treatment of wastewater and solid waste is a daily need we all count on,” said Westrom. “Simply, infrastructure projects such as these are essential to our Greater Minnesota communities and the well-being of our state. I look forward to working with local officials and my colleagues in the Senate on an infrastructure bill that meets the needs of Minnesotans.”
But whether the local projects will actually be funded is a whole other matter.
“The guys (in solid waste management) are doing tremendous work with composting programs, and sorting recyclable materials out,” Ingebrigtsen said. “We have some real tough decisions about what to do with garbage. We are so darn wasteful. Even burning our garbage is a challenge because there’s not enough room for the ash.”
The competition for the grants is stiff – state agencies and local governments are requesting a total of $5.3 billion for the next legislative session.
Ingebrigtsen said that out of the 400-some projects proposed, the committee will end up making about 200 visits to communities around the state to hear the proposals first-hand.
“We’ll be looking at a lot of other projects on the docket,” Ingebrigtsen said, adding that the Runestone Community Center’s $5.6 million request for a third sheet of ice is also in the mix.