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Garbage is good

It's time to change our view of garbage.

Garbage is good.

Garbage is economic development.

Garbage means a few more jobs in East Otter Tail County.

Garbage disposal can be environmentally sound, and a form of valuable, waste-to-energy recycling.

Becker County, Cass County, Clay County...We want you. Actually, what we really want is your garbage. (We want you, too, especially for Turtle Fest, Crazy Days, Heritage Fest and Labor Day--and any other weekend you would like to come and visit, but that's another economic development matter.)

What we really need right now is support from Otter Tail County, specifically the county board.

The Otter Tail County board delivered a blow to a potential $9.8 million expansion of the Perham Resource Recovery Facility. The board went on record as opposed to the expansion because "there is no benefit to Otter Tail County," according to the county board minutes.

Part of the problem in building momentum for the project is that it is a garbage burning operation. Not what you would call a sexy public policy matter. Another problem is that many of us right here in Perham don't entirely understand what goes on at the Resource Recovery facility. In summary: Garbage comes in from Otter Tail, Wadena and Todd Counties, it is burned and converted to steam, which is then sold as an energy source to Bongards' and Tuffy's Pet Foods.

In order to cash-flow the expansion, the facility would need to process 20,000 additional tons of trash. That's where Becker, Cass and other prospective counties come into the picture. As recently as earlier this week, Becker officials have expressed its interest in sending solid waste to Perham.

Otter Tail County commissioners are hung up on three things, in a nutshell.

---Sale of steam will be a critical revenue source for the expansion. A long term contract with Bongards' Creameries will be necessary. County commissioners are concerned about Bongards' committent. What we don know is that Bongards' has been experiencing increased sales, and are in an expansion mode--so the time is right to lock in a long term contract

---Concerns over the responsibility for about $7 million in new debt. The project has already been awarded a $2.8 million grant. There is also about $1 million in equipment available for use from the Fergus Falls incinerator, which closed several years ago.

---Finally, concerns over how the operation will be governed, and what form of joint powers board will be established as the expansion moves forward.

The Otter Tail county board will be meeting in New York Mills on Tuesday, August 19, and the Perham incinerator is scheduled on the agenda for about 10:15 a.m. A Perham contingent is planning to attend, so everybody's invited.

Maybe if Otter Tail County taxpayers realized that a large share of the county's trash is being transported--along with the tipping fee revenue--to Gwinner, North Dakota--there would be more interest in this project.

As far as environmental concerns: We can either burn garbage in a completely controlled, monitored and tested environment...or we can dump it in a landfill in North Dakota...And worry about those buried environmental consequences later. Which would you prefer?