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Oneida County seeks location for new demolition waste site

September 17, 2019 by Fred Williston

At its regular meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11, the Oneida County Public Works Committee discussed plans for the solid waste department’s proposed demolition waste site and voted to recommend an increase in wages for the highway department’s mechanics.

Where to put the waste?

Lisa Jolin is Oneida County’s Solid Waste Department director, and she’s running out of space for construction and demolition (C&D) waste.

“We have two closed C&D sites and one current one that will be closed soon. It’s approaching final capacity,” Jolin told The Lakeland Times.

Since February, Jolin has been struggling to find a suitable new home for C&D waste and is on her third attempt at securing a location.

“We’ve been kind of going ‘round and ‘round on this for months,” Jolin said. “The first two proposals that went through? One was no good because the neighbors weren’t happy that it was too close to their houses and backyards. The second one was within the designated silent sports area.”

She’s hoping the third time will be the charm, but she is guardedly optimistic. 

“This one doesn’t impact any of that,” she said. “But it’s still somewhat in the beginning stages.”

Site selection has not been an easy process for several reasons. While the new site will not require any infrastructure or construction — as it will essentially be a two-acre hole in the ground — it must be within the immediate vicinity of the solid waste department’s office and scales located just off of County Trunk Highway K.

Proposed C&D sites must also comply with environmental standards set by the county and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Included in those standards is a minimum setback of 1,325 feet from any existing or reclaimed site.

Recently, Jolin directed her efforts towards a natural depression which would require minimum excavation and which is within working distance of the department’s scales. It also sits far enough away from all three of the county’s other C&D sites to meet the setback requirement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, she explained to the supervisors a few “hiccups” have come into play, “but they’re hurdles we can get over.”

She told supervisors Oneida County zoning officials had recently deemed an area only a few hundred feet from the site to be a wetland, and as a consequence, the DNR must determine whether or not the wetland area constitutes a navigable waterway.

Two supervisors who are familiar with the terrain balked at the notion.

“It’s just a ravine that the water runs into,” Scott Holewinski said.

“And only depending on what time of year it is,” committee chairman Robb Jensen added.

On Sept. 12, Jolin told The Lakeland Times she had received permission from the DNR to proceed with plans. Even if the department does deem the area to be a navigable waterway, it will grant a variance to the county for the proposed fill site.

“It’s (Oneida County) Forestry property now, and we’re going to the county board to ask for a withdrawal from county forest land,” she said. “If it clears the county board, then we have to get a conditional use permit and then submit a plan of operation to the DNR ... If the withdrawal is approved at the county board, then it could take up to six months to go through the U.S. Forestry withdrawal part. It’s a very lengthy process.”

Jolin also explained she is working closely with the town of Woodboro, where the proposed site is located. 

“We want to make sure everyone is OK with it,” she said. “We’ll go to them (the Woodboro Town Board) before the conditional use permit comes up.”

While the public works committee originally hoped to have the new site open this year, Jolin expects real groundbreaking will not occur until spring — barring any other obstacles to her plans. 

“I’m a little skittish because we’ve gotten down some roads before and got stopped,” she said. “C&D sites are different from the sanitary landfills. It’s clean construction materials; no plastics, no regular waste.” 

Based on the rates of fill at the county’s other three sites, she estimates the new site will have a life span between seven and 10 years before it hits capacity and is covered. 

“They’re beneficial sites,” she said.

Jensen agreed. “These demo sites are one of our more profitable business units,” he said. “If I’m a builder and I’m tearing something down, there aren’t a lot of options as far as places to take that stuff ... We charge by the ton, and there’s a demand. So we price things for supply and demand ... But I’m still concerned about asking the county for the loan.”

A step closer to mechanics’ raises

Currently, Oneida County supervisors are wrestling with budgetary belt-tightening in an attempt to prioritize raising the wages of county employees.

Last year, the county hired the consulting firm of Carlson-Dettman to run a wage study comparing Oneida County to other employers in the state. The recommendation was to raise salaries or lose employees.

The analyst cited a highly competitive hiring market across the state where some counties were seeing a mass exodus of workers who moved or crossed county lines for identical jobs at higher wages.

The Oneida County Highway Department has struggled with high turnover and minimal recruitment for at least the last two years. On Sept. 11, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the county’s administration and labor relations/employee services committee a raise for highway department mechanics.

If approved, the raise would represent an additional $1.60 to $2.02 per hour, depending on the length of an individual’s employment with the department.

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