Tipping fee increase at Resource Recovery Center causes Preston hauler to look at options

By: 
Melissa Vander Plas

Tony Severson, owner of S&S Sanitation, attended the Preston City Council meeting on Monday night to request a change in disposal locations due to an impending increase in tipping fees at the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center. Severson, who contracts with the city of Preston to pick up garbage and recycling throughout the city, requested that the council amend his contract to allow him to take landfill items to a Stewartville-area landfill instead of the Fillmore County facility.

Severson explained that the county is implementing a 25% increase in tipping fees at the local Resource Recovery Center, which will go into effect on April 1.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman told the council, Severson would be able to pass along that increase to his customers, which would be an estimated increase of $1.70 per month to cover this added cost.

Severson said if the council agreed to change his contract language, allowing him to take the waste to another destination, no cost increase for the Preston customers would be necessary.

The waste hauler also told the council that this 25% increase makes the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center significantly more expensive than other hauling destinations that Severson has available.

Hoffman stated he believes Severson always thinks of his customers first, but the council also wanted assurances that any hauler – current or in the future – has accountability to where refuse is being hauled.

He also noted that the current contract says Severson has to haul garbage to the local facility. However, Severson stated he would like to take refuse elsewhere to save his customers some money. He proposed utilizing a landfill near Stewartville, which is an approved site.

Some council members were under the impression that Preston garbage and recycling had to be taken to the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center, however, that is not the case. It was noted, the Fillmore County Resource Recover Center will only take waste from Fillmore County residents.

Currently, Hoffman said, the contract with S&S Sanitation reads, “The contractor shall haul and deliver all collected landfill and recyclables to the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center at Preston, Minn., or to such other destinations as are agreed upon in writing by the parties.”

Hoffman and City Attorney Dwight Luhmann noted the contract does not need to be amended, but a letter of understanding could be attached allowing the Stewartville site to be an added option for Severson to utilize.

Severson explained that Fillmore County doesn’t have a landfill itself, but the waste haulers take the refuse to Fillmore County’s center, unloading it into a transfer station. The garbage is then loaded onto a trailer and taken to either a landfill in Winneshiek County or another in Lake Mills, Iowa.

Severson also noted that the Stewartville site is cheaper than Fillmore County now, even before the increase in tipping fees. Severson currently takes his demolition loads as well as his farm routes to the Stewartville site.

Hoffman stated, “We value our relationship with Fillmore County and we are not closing the door forever. This could give the county the time to revisit its decision.”

Severson said he would continue to maintain his license with Fillmore County as well. The additional costs for using the local site will negatively affect his business, he added.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve never had an increase like this. We can take the smaller increases, like 3% or 4%, but a jump of this size is pretty tough,” Severson said. “They will be the most expensive transfer station around when they go to that.”

Severson noted many of the other haulers operating within Fillmore County communities have all found other options for garbage disposal. He believes his company to be the only one hauling there right now.

Even though the council approved his request to take garbage to the Stewartville landfill, Severson said he will continue to take the recycling to the Preston site.

The city has a five-year contract with S&S Sanitation, with three years left on the current contract.

Consent agenda

By approving the consent agenda, the City Council approved membership dues of $125 to the Preston Chamber of Commerce; a list of donations made to the city of Preston during 2019; and a list of automatic payments the city sets up each year.

Other business

The council reviewed a list of appointments for the year 2020, including local boards and commissions. Hoffman noted vacancies on the planning and zoning commission and another on the economic development authority. Volunteers are being sought to fill those seats. Councilperson Holly Zuck noted she has difficulty attending the EDA meetings as she works out of town on the current meeting day and doesn’t get back in time. Rather than replacing Zuck on the EDA, a change in meeting day and time was suggested. The EDA will discuss the matter at a future meeting.

The council approved the mayor, the mayor pro-tem, city administrator and the deputy city clerk to sign checks for the city. Each check requires two signatures.

It was noted that the current fee schedule was attached for review, however the city staff did not recommend any changes for 2020.

The next meeting for the Preston City Council will be moved to Tuesday, Jan. 21, due to Martin Luther King, Jr., Day falling on the regular meeting date of Monday, Jan. 20.