BEMIDJI -- More than a year after a public hearing full of input on a new solid waste ordinance, a revised draft of the regulatory document is nearing approval.

The Beltrami County Solid Waste Department has been working on a new ordinance which would combine two existing documents into one. The effort followed Beltrami County purchasing two transfer stations from Waste Management in Bemidji and Blackduck, along with other solid waste sites.

After purchasing the waste facilities for $1.85 million in 2017, the county invested $3.8 million into the transfer stations, with financial assistance from the state, to ensure the buildings have a 20-year lifespan.

The ordinance will govern how Beltrami County handles household and commercial waste, as well as recyclable materials and building debris. Initially, the ordinance had also included authority for the county to hold individuals accountable for violations.

However, during a public hearing in November 2019, county staff and officials learned that residents found the new ordinance too restrictive and over regulatory. As a result, County Solid Waste Manager Brian Olson said work groups met in the months after to find alternatives.

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As a result, the new proposed ordinance, which was reviewed at the county's meeting on Nov. 17, includes a procedure with local governments for handling violations.

"There's a flow chart now, so if there's a solid waste complaint, based on the public comments we received, the local governments will be the first ones involved," Olson said. "It will be left up to the townships and cities, we'll let them be the first ones to look into an issue because they're the closest to the problem."

Now, when a solid waste concern is raised, it can either go in two directions. In the case that the concern is regarding an immanent environmental concern, a state duty officer, a representative from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and local emergency officials will respond.

If the situation is a non-emergency concern, the subject will go to the township or city government. The local government unit in that scenario has the option to approve the activity in question, or if it doesn't, it can forward the situation to the Solid Waste Department.

In the case that the department finds a potential violation, it will investigate and recommend corrective action, such as a fine, to the solid waste committee. An alleged violation letter is then sent to the concerned party and the full County Board of Commissioners will be notified.

Permitting decisions, meanwhile, are automatically sent to the Solid Waste Department. The department will then have the county's Solid Waste Committee to make the approval. If the permit is denied, the applicant can address the full County Board of Commissioners to find a solution.

The full draft of the ordinance is available online at the Solid Waste section of the county website www.co.beltrami.mn.us. According to Olson, the ordinance has been added as an agenda item to the board's meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1.