Prairieland deal brewing

TRUMAN – In May, officials with Green Photon Power pitched the idea of making plastics to the Prairieland board of directors.

On Friday, Bob Weerts of Green Photon Power, which has a Winnebago presence, was back to say he is still interested in teaming up with Prairieland, which is a cooperative effort of Martin and Faribault counties. Weerts asked Prairieland leaders to work with him to draft a memorandum of understanding so it can be presented next month.

“We want to make sure we’re on the same page,” he said.

“How soon will we see a plan?” asked Elliot Belgard, a Martin County commissioner.

“Three weeks,” Weerts answered. “We’ve been working on this for two and a half months.”

Billeye Rabbe, interim director at Prairieland, asked if Weerts plans to use the facility or buy it.

“We can do it either way,” he replied.

“We want a win/win situation,” he added.

“It’s gotta be better than what we’re doing and it’s gotta be long term,” said Tom Warmka, Faribault County commissioner.

Weerts replied that he is planning on 30 years, and he asked if Green Photon can take over by the first of the year. Board members said that since the facility is controlled by government regulations, things probably can’t happen that fast.

“We’re looking at spending $7 to $12 million here,” Weerts said.

The Prairieland facility created compost from garbage until a year ago, when it switched to generating refuse-derived fuel.

The presentation in May included ideas about renovating the facility, adding equipment to handle plastic products, and possibly hiring more employees.

“We’re still all open and receptive to all avenues,” said Greg Young, Faribault County commissioner. “Trying to do what’s best for the counties and the facility.”

In other business, Dale Foster of B&B Sanitation of Winnebago returned for more assurances from the board.

In February, Foster talked to Prairieland about the validity of contracts that he and the other haulers signed in 2010, because Prairieland switched from compost to refuse-derived fuel, and how it is cheaper to take loads to other facilities. He also brought up his fears of being caught with inappropriate refuse in his trucks and wanted to know if he will be “on the hook for it.”

On Friday, he reiterated concerns about what people may slip into containers he empties into his trucks.

“Are you operating under the assumption you take it all?” Foster asked. “I’m not responsible for it?”

“Municipal solid waste garbage should all come here,” Rabbe told him.

The only waste that shouldn’t be brought to Prairieland is demolition debris, she added.

“Is there a law against him mixing loads?” asked Tom Loveall, Faribault County commissioner.

“He’s never brought a load in here that wasn’t acceptable,” Rabbe said.

“I’ve never had a violation; we’ve been very careful about that,” Foster said.

Young said he followed one of Foster’s semis that took a load of waste to the Ponderosa landfill in Blue Earth County.

“That should be brought here and we should make the decision on what to do with it,” Young said. “Bring it over here; if somebody slips something in, we’re not going to hold you responsible.”