By Louis Hoglund

Managing Otter Tail County’s garbage and recycling took center stage at the Jan. 10 Pelican Rapids City Council meeting. 

The county will be applying for grants to expand recycling, and the city agreed to draft a letter of support for the grant process. 

On a second solid waste-related matter, the county opened discussions of buying the city-owned land that presently houses the transfer station, on the west side of the city. The Pelican site is one of five transfer stations across the county. 

On hand for the discussions were Otter Tail’s solid waste director, Chris McConn, and County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. 

Traditional landfilling is “cheap on the front end, but potentially expensive on the back end,” said Johnson. He noted as an example the landfill clean-ups necessary elsewhere in the state, where toxic substances from decades before have been discovered. 

“There is a liability for putting things in landfills, 30 to 50 years from now,” said Johnson. 

Grant opportunities could move the county to so-called “single sort” recycling. Similar programs have been introduced in Fergus Falls and Perham, but collecting recycling bins from households in rural areas is much more expensive than in densely populated areas, noted McConn.

The grants would further research recycling options, both rural and urban, and would also enhance collections at the Pelican transfer station—which has been operated by the county for about 33 years. 

The transfer station is situated on about 10 to 15 acres of a 160-acre parcel of city land, said McConn. 

A number of improvements could be made at the site, including expanded recycling collections, running water, and an on-site septic system. However, the county is reluctant to invest further on land it doesn’t own. 

The Pelican facility could also be enhanced to accept household hazardous waste, like paints, solvents, and chemicals. 

Otter Tail County’s goal is “zero landfill,” but the objective remains distant at this point. 

The Pelican Council agreed to write a letter supporting the grant request with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the sale of city land to the county was presented on an informational basis—with discussion continuing at a future date.