BEMIDJI -- Fee changes for commercial solid waste disposal have hit businesses hard this year, prompting Beltrami County leadership to make adjustments on how they are implemented.

According to County Administrator Tom Barry, the solid waste fee formula was modified in January for 2021. The action was taken after the county received a notification from state agencies announcing that solid waste rates can no longer be based on weight and instead need to be determined by volume.

"In the conversion, there have been adjustments to rates and there have been different impacts resulting from those modifications," Barry said. "If you're a commercial customer that has a large volume of waste, but it doesn't weigh very much, think of something like Styrofoam, you don't benefit because you have a lot of volume and not a lot of weight."

At the same time, commercial customers with more weight but less volume are now having more of a benefit.

"It's kind of a reversal and that's been amplifying concerns recently," Barry said. "When those bills were sent out, there were some businesses that expressed concern and one of them came to the county's meeting about two months ago asking for a reevaluation."

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Barry said the subject was brought to the County Solid Waste Advisory Committee for review and after a month of consideration, it was determined the calculations were correct. However, the committee also found that the impacts were likely too great for a business to handle all at once.

"The committee sent back a recommendation to the County Board of Commissioners that the modifications be implemented over a two-year period," Barry said. "What that will do is cut everyone's increases down in half and distribute them over two years. The county will also be crediting those who have been charged and making adjustments to those who are experiencing the adjustment next year."

The commissioners approved the modification during their meeting on Tuesday, July 20.