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Stevens Co. Board of Commissioners approves solid waste service fee increase

MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved a $25 increase to the annual Solid Waste Service Fee (SWSF), endorsed a new Senior Companion Program through the Human Services Department and approved two revised joint powers agreement at their meeting on Tuesday.

Bill Kleindl, environmental services/planning and zoning director, told the board that an increase to the SWSF from $20 to $45 per year is needed to keep the solid waste fund operating in the black.

The SWSF - originally $35 per parcel - was created in 1991 as a way to help pay off the bond for closing an old landfill and constructing a transfer station to store and load garbage. Once the bond and debt service were paid off, the fee was reduced to $20 per year.

Since then, the fund has been used as a way to offset the cost of annual solid waste activities and, more recently, has started to subsidize the difference in cost between the two places the county disposes of waste - the Pope/Douglas Incinerator and the Kandiyohi County Landfill. This allowed monthly garbage disposal costs to remain the same, but also caused the fund to lose money.

The approved change to the fund consists of five classes of solid waste producing properties and sets an annual fee of between $45 for a household to between $45 and $2,610 for "exempt properties and others, including churches, group homes, schools, county, city and state offices."

Kleindl told the board that approving this increase should keep costs to city, rural and commercial properties steady for the next five years. This change does not impact the monthly cost of garbage collection, just the fee the county pays to dispose of waste that is collected annually through taxes.

Senior Companion program approved

The board approved $500 to begin a small senior companion program in the county.

Senior companions are not currently a service that the county provides, but Human Services Director Joanie Murphy said she has been speaking with representatives from Traverse and Grant Counties who believe this is a program that would be useful to slowly begin implementing.

"When you consider the fact that our population is aging, I think that it's good for us to be positioning ourselves to think about that population and what we have available in terms of services for seniors," said Murphy.

Each senior companion will cost the county $500, which helps pay for insurance and other costs. The board approved committing to one companion for next year, but could look into more if there is a need in the area.

Senior companions work between 15 and 20 hours per week, doing anything from simply talking with the client to participating in activities.

"It's not so unusual if you have parents who live here and their children don't, it's comforting for their children to know there's someone here that's maintaining contact with their parents," said Murphy.

Other business

• The board approved allocations and appropriations for 2012. The allocations include $34,175 for the Ag Society; $53,439 for the Regional Library; $110,000 for the Soil and Water Conservation District; $59,400 for the Historical Society; $64,850 for the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission; $5,000 for Stevens Forward; $118,169 for Public Health, and $1,500 for the West Central Initiative.

• The board approved a new joint powers agreement for West Central S.W.A.T. The new agreement adds Swift County, Appleton and Benson to the group. The S.W.A.T. team is called out, on average, about four times per year, said Sheriff Randy Willis.

• The board approved a new joint powers agreement for Rainbow Rider, which added additional funding from Todd County.

• The board approved tobacco licenses for Alberta Bar & Grill, Amoco Foodshop, By-Lo Gas & Groceries, Casey's General Store, Cenex South, Hancock Coop, HD & Co., Jerry's U-Save, Tri County Coop and Willie's Super Valu.