New director eyes reforms

TRUMAN – In her first meeting as interim director at Prairieland, Billeye Rabbe offered the board of directors a line-by-line explanation of the budget Friday.

Rabbe, who also works as solid waste coordinator for Faribault and Martin counties, began the meeting with a presentation, noting Prairieland is going through changes: a change in directors and a potential in focus, as the waste-processing facility considers joining forces with Green Photon Power, which has a Winnebago office. According to its website, Green Photon Power is a develops and manages all forms of waste-to-energy and biomass technologies; land remediation; recycling; and biofuels production.

Rabbe said she plans to move Prairieland forward: drafting a five-year plan and budget projections.

For the past month, she has been going through the files, studying the budget, talking to employees and seeking answers.

Rabbe’s objectives for Prairieland, which is owned by Martin and Faribault counties, are for it to serve a purpose; give taxpayers a product; and be a positive part of the community, state and solid waste process.

She said she has received lots of phone calls from people since she was named interim director.

“People want the services Prairieland offers,” she said.

On the plus side, she noted the mortgage is paid off, Prairieland has “terrific employees,” and the facility is contributing to production of electrical power.

Rabbe wants to sell assets that Prairieland no longer uses, cut expenses and boost revenue.

To decrease expenses, she wants to carefully sort and truck the garbage that comes in; improve storage for those times when the Wilmarth power plant in Mankato is off line and can’t take Prairieland’s refuse; eliminate overtime; cut subscriptions and memberships; and find a way to handle peak electricity use.

Rabbe noted Prairieland has five fewer employees than it did two years ago, making it difficult to catch up on non-essential work, such as cleaning.

To control power costs, Rabbe wants to switch to generators during peak usage. In 2012, Prairieland spent $102,000 on electricity; in 2013, it has been $43,000 so far.

Rabbe said she is determined to turn Prairieland around.

“We have a huge investment here; we can’t just drop it and leave,” she said. “It’s a fabulous facility.”

She said June saw 156 fewer tons come in than projected, which means less revenue for Prairieland.

Rabbe asked the two county boards for $23,500; Martin County’s share is $13,865 and Faribault County’s is $9,635. The county boards will decide on her request at upcoming meetings.