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Illegal dumping fines could be steep

Possible fines for garbage dumping at Wadena County recycling sites were suggested at amounts from $19 per bag to $30 a bag at Tuesday's county board meeting.

Mike Gibson, a consultant overseeing the reorganization of the solid waste department, calculated the county's cleanup cost by averaging two solid waste employees' hourly wages plus a 30 percent benefit for a total of $14.05.

Minnesota Statute 115A.99 allows counties to fine people for at least twice and no more than five times the amount of what it costs the county to remove, process and dispose of unlawfully placed waste. That means the county can legitimately fine for $28.10 per bag, Gibson said.

"We've got people with eight bags out there," he said.

Solid waste employees have recorded names and addresses found in the trash.

Gibson plans to copy the basics of a letter used by Otter Tail County to inform people of the fines for illegal dumping, he said.

"It's a listen up and get your attention thing, and I think it's going to do that," he said.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl suggested Gibson look into whether the sheriff's department or Wadena police department have a letter dealing with trash dumping. He knows it's been a problem in the past, too, he said.

Gibson has informed law enforcement about the issue, he said, but they prefer having the county handle the initial contact and they will get involved if people don't comply.

Commissioner Ralph Miller said there is a need for education. He wondered if it would be appropriate to put some ads in the newspaper.

Gibson said one of the benefits of collaborating with Otter Tail County Solid Waste would be having access to an education officer who gives presentations on recycling and other solid waste topics. Wadena County also needs more signage saying the recycling sites are not garbage dumps, he said.

Miller suggested the remote locations of some of the sites might be an issue for people who don't care about the rules.

That's right, Gibson said, but dumping has occurred in public locations, too. A week and a half ago they found garbage at the Nimrod location, which is right downtown, he said.

"It was so vile, the garbage in that, that they had to throw the whole load away," Gibson said. "They're doing it right under the street lights."

A lot of people appreciate having the bins, he said, and they want them used right.

As a former police officer, Waldahl thinks change may occur once word gets out you will get charged for dumping, he said.

"I think one thing that stops it [is] when you hit them in the pocket book," he said.

Gibson asked commissioners for direction on the amount they want to fine. He should have a letter prepared by the end of the month, he said.