HUGO — Washington County residents will soon be able to get rid of much more than just grass clippings and leaves at the Hugo yard waste collection site located near the intersection of Fenway Avenue and 170th Street North.
The Hugo City Council approved an operating agreement with the county at its June 3 meeting. Under the agreement, the county will take over the operation of the site, expand the service from Hugo residents only to all county residents and collect more items.
The city of Hugo originally acquired the site in 1987 from the state of Minnesota by tax forfeiture for the purpose of compost recycling. The compost site is currently operated by the city, serving Hugo residents, and is a deposit site for grass clippings, leaves and soft organic matter. No brush, twigs, branches or woody materials are accepted.
City Administrator Bryan Bear explained, “This has been a long process. You wouldn’t think it would be so complex to put an agreement together for a compost site, but it has proven to be a case. County staff has been very good to work with... they have been very patient in putting this (agreement) together.”
The expansion of services will include the collection of yard waste, such as garden waste, leaves, lawn clippings, weeds, shrub and tree waste, along with Source Separated Organic Material (SSOM) or kitchen and food waste.
To accommodate more services and all county residents, an adjacent land owner, Daniel Bayless, has agreed to lease a portion of his property so the county has adequate acreage. The lease, which was approved by the County Board May 21, will run until Dec. 31, 2022, at a cost of $3,500 a year for the first two years, and then $5,836 for the third year, with the option to renew for one year. The county will develop the site for an estimated cost of $137,960.
“I think this is going to be a tremendous asset for the residents in this area. We talk a lot about water quality and our reuse, but some of these materials also find their way into areas that are less than desirable for water quality impacts,” Councilman Mike Miron said. “This is a good way to work with the county and bring it to a site where it finds itself to the proper place and it can be exposed of the proper way.”
Council Member Becky Petryck said, “This is one of my number one items that I hear from constituents. I hear it every year when I go to our HOA meeting. Grass clippings are great, but we have so many other things that we have to get rid of.” She inquired about whether Ramsey County residents would also be able to utilize the site.
Jeff Travis, program manager for Washington County Public Health and Environment, explained the county continues to have discussions with Ramsey County about a reciprocal use agreement. For many years, both counties have allowed residents to use each other’s household hazardous waste sites.
“We are just looking for people to have convenient service and get their materials managed,” Travis explained. He added an official agreement has yet to be made between the counties.
Councilman Phil Klein wanted to know whether the compost site in Forest Lake would close down. Travis said even though the expanded site in Hugo was designed to accommodate citizens from Forest Lake, the decision to close the site would ultimately be up to the City Council.
Councilman Chuck Haas wanted to know how much it would cost residents to drop off materials. Travis explained the county pays for the service through its environmental charge, which is collected as a percentage on garbage bills.
Mayor Tom Weidt wanted to know about the county’s longterm plan for both the interim site and the possibility of a future site in Hugo. Travis said, “Our goal is to to establish a permanent site not only in the northern part of the county, but also a environmental center, but we need acreage for that.” He added that the county’s Building Services Department continues to look into options for a permanent solution in Hugo.
The county plans to have the expanded site in Hugo up and running by late September. Bear explained the city would continue to keep the site open as long as it can and will work with the county during the transition. “We believe we can do the land work on the adjacent property without impacting current drop-off. There will be a time where we have to coordinate grading, but we will work with city staff to minimize impacts,” Travis said.
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