Since Goodhue County's District 1 seat became empty in April, the debate over whether to appoint someone to fill the position has continued at the County Board. Now, the Red Wing City Council is beginning to comment on how the vacancy is impacting the city. The most recent example: the Bench Street Landfill.

Mayor Sean Dowse attended the County Board meeting June 18 and read a letter from the City Council requesting that the county appoint a District 1 representative. About half of Red Wing falls within that district, including the Bench Street Landfill.

"There's going to be consequences, budgetary consequences," Dowse told the City Council Monday night before calling on Rick Moskwa, the city's public works director, to comment.

Moskwa's concern, and one that he voiced during the County Board meeting, is that not appointing a District 1 representative will result in stalling plans to move forward with the county's solid waste plan.

Red Wing and Goodhue County have been working to enter the Bench Street Landfill in the state's Closed Landfill Program so that if it leaks or needs to be cleaned up, the financial responsibility would be the state's - not the county and city's.

The landfill has two parts: The county owns the solid waste landfill while the city owns the ash landfill.

To enter it in state program, the two local governments had to create an ordinance that requires most solid waste generated in the county to be processed in Red Wing's new plant - not put in a landfill somewhere else.

"The ordinance is going to take someone to change their mind based on how they voted in the past," Moskwa stated.

When the County Board advanced the solid waste plan, two of the sitting commissioners favored continuing it and two were opposed. Without a fifth commissioner, motions on the plan will most likely fail due to a tie.

Bids rejected

Red Wing's next step in opening the new solid waste processing plant is to accept bids from a contractor and formally close the city's ash site.

"Due to circumstances outside the control of the city," staff's report to the council states, "staff are recommending rejection of bids."

Public Works gave two reasons.

First, the bids submitted were 40 percent greater than expected. The report continues, "It is hoped that releasing for bids again in December 2019 may result in pricing proposals coming in at lower rates and within the original project estimate."

Second, the county is in "gridlock." The report states that the city does not have sufficient anticipated funding to go forward without the waste designation agreement with the county:

"I can't come to you in good conscious and say 'Close that ash landfill' because we could still use it," Moskwa said.

The council did vote Monday to rebid in December.

Council President Dean Hove asked Moskwa if there is a deadline for when the Bench Street Landfill can be entered into the Closed Landfill Program.

According to Moskwa, Red Wing staff posed that question to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Staff there said that the landfill could still be entered as long as the municipalities were still working toward entering the landfill into the program. However, no opinion has been given by an attorney.

The deadline in the legislation allowing the landfill into the program is the close of 2019.

The District 1 seat could be filled on Nov. 5 or, if more than two candidates register to run for the seat, February 2020. Four people applied to be considered for the appointment.