BEMIDJI -- A new ordinance to regulate solid waste disposal in Beltrami County was approved Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners.

The unanimous vote by the board during its meeting followed more than a year of public comment and revisions to the document. The process to draft the document was both to combine two existing ordinances and to update the county's regulations, as it recently took over transfer station operations.

In the summer of 2017, the county finalized a purchase with Waste Management to buy transfer stations in Bemidji and Blackduck, as well as other solid waste sites, for $1.85 million. The county then upgraded the facilities at an estimated $3.8 million, with financial assistance from the state, to ensure they have a 20-year life span.

The ordinance will now govern how the county handles household and commercial waste, as well as recyclable materials and building debris. The document, available at the county's website, also covers costs related to solid waste.

Additionally, based on public feedback, a flow chart was included in the ordinance giving cities and townships the authority to handle concerns related to solid waste first, before the County Solid Waste Department gets involved.

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Red Lake Initiative advances

Another unanimous approval made by the board Tuesday was to authorize staff to enter into a memorandum of understanding between the Red Lake Nation, Minnesota Department of Human Services and the County. The MOU is to help Red Lake establish a process for implementing its Indian Child Welfare Initiative.

The initiative has been in the works for a few years and will make an alteration to how out of home placement child care is handled financially. While the Red Lake Nation has been legally responsible for those services, the county has been the government entity financially responsible.

With the initiative, though, Red Lake would work directly with the federal government on finances, taking the county out of the process. In 2019, the initiative was authorized by the Minnesota Legislature to begin in January 2021.

Because of the financial implications of the initiative, the MOU also includes details on developing an agreement for the transition from county fiscal responsibility to tribal. Additionally, the MOU will assist in coordinating and defining the child welfare services between Red Lake and the Department of Human Services.