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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Representative Fenton's Bill to Give Washington County Final Say Over it's City's Economic Development


Latest on Representative Fenton: 



Update: The bill passed

Cities of Washington County can look forward to being trampled by the County if they think their city shouldn't do as the County wishes. 

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"
"city" means county and "city council" means county board."these 9 words are in HF2820 / SF2520 that's currently backed by every legislator in Washington County to change the 233 pages that make up "Minnesota Statute, section 469: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT".

The authors of the bill Representative Kelly Fenton (R) district 53B and Senator Katie Sieben (D) district 54 did a great job presenting this as an innocent jobs promotion bill to update existing law. It flew through the House committee early March and it wasn't until March 18th did I realize this bill most likely has an underlying motive besides it's superficial claims.

On the surface HF2820 / SF2520 appears to be as the legislators claim. A bill that is "Reforming and Streamlining County Government" by granting "economic development" power to the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). It initially appears to be a good idea... why not let the County get involved with Economic development? However, I read the entire proposal and the original law... Nothing in the proposed changes to the law indicates this is anything but encroaching on cities.

"Economic development" as it's written in the law is currently granted to cities (469.091). Cities have the final say to bring in outside help (such as a county) (469.094). In fact, the current law explicitly protects cities with their own economic development power from an over reaching county:
469.1082:
"Any county that has granted economic development powers to a community development agency or a county housing and redevelopment authority under any of these provisions may not form a county economic development authority or grant a housing and redevelopment authority the powers specified in subdivision 4, clause (2)." (emphasis added)

Think... if this bill was such a great idea than: 
1.) Why is it only for Washington County?
2.) Why is it at this time? (two months after Lake Elmo kicks the Gateway Corridor out)
3.) Why hasn't it been done for any of the 87 counties in the 158 years that the MN legislature has been meeting? (1857 was the first convention)

It's clearly a plan to at the least duplicate the economic power city's have and as our first sentence points out it supplants it with the County. Republicans are supposed to be the party of eliminating red tape, duplicate services, and cutting taxes. So I sent this email on March 18th and received no response from legislators: "Every Republican Legislator in WC, what's with growing government with HF2820/SF2520?!Steve Ellenwood, who announced he's is going to run against Fenton for abandoning her conservative base, responded: 
"I stand with you Matt. Stop, we've had enough government intervention into our lives and pocket books!"


On Monday March 21st I testified for the Senate Committee on State and Local Government against the bill. My testimony had four reasons to not pass HF2820 / SF2520 through:
1.) It duplicates the power cities have to manage their own "economic development." At worst, city and county economic development powers may not agree and the conflict could end in the city being trampled. ie: if Washington County wanted to force them to accept high density housing or a transit corridor they just kicked out.
2.) Cities and to a greater extent: the private sector free market, is the best at identifying and providing economic development to a property (ie: store placement)
3.) Having followed every Washington County board meeting for the last 3 years I'm familiar with the workings of the HRA. The HRA board in WC is stacked with un-elected ideologues with no qualifications, perhaps good intentions, and the power over millions of tax dollars. Often the person appointed to the position for a given area by the County board is the only person to volunteer. With HF2820 / SF2520 they want to give this unaccountable board "Economic Development" power?!!!! yeah they have to get their budgets approved by the County Board... Mind you, this is the same county board that's tripled the county debt in the period of 8 years (and we're adding another 20 million this year):County Debt Tripled in the Last Seven Years, the Board Undeterred: Budget Passes
4.) Government "Economic development" if that's not essentially the power to redistribute wealth and pick winners and losers, I don't know what is... it's one thing to give local governments the "Housing and Redevelopment" power which is essentially subsidizing high density housing and empowering them to prepare blighted land for development... but it's a huge stretch to start granting counties economic development power to ... even for democrats. At least with cities that exceed the ability for businesses to survive the business can move the next city over, keep their employees, and survive.

Representative Fenton emailed back this response denying any ulterior motivation.... Yet she also happens to be the author of HF1617 to fund the Gateway Corridor that was just kicked out of Lake Elmo. It's not a stretch to claim that she needs this bill to give Washington County the power to tell Lake Elmo what's best for them.

Although Fenton is correct about the HRA maintaining their current power that's about the only thing she's correct on in her response. You will notice she doesn't back any of her statements with quotes from the law change proposal that is HF2820 / SF2520 or in the 233 page law it proposes to change: "Minnesota Statute, section 469: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT"

The rest of Fenton's statements are a mix of semantics with misinformation. Laughable is the comment about how she believes the private sector is what drives the economy since this bill gives the government more power to manipulate the private sector (through the HRA) and what the free market could do with property if the government could just leave well enough alone... 

Just ask Cottage Grove: 
They go through more big box stores than a teenager on black Friday. But that's their freedom, they elect city councilors that like to micro manage. In turn they attract businesses to their high tax, high red tape, area the only way they know how: By offering up short term candy with their economic development power (EDA)... only to watch them eventually flee: Home Depot, Famous Dave's, Rainbow Foods, the drive in movie theater (on and on)... Not mention the Epic failure their business center is:

But if Cottage Grove wants to have a $16 million dollar city hall, pay for a city run Golf Course, pay millions for a YMCA even though south Woodbury has one 5 minutes away... then they can keep reap the consequences of their strategy to bait stores to build there... while they keep leaving when the favoritism expires. 

Point is: Don't mess with the will of the citizens of Cottage Grove (or Lake Elmo, that is the opposite in that they keep things small town)

Fenton says "The proposed will compliment municipal economic development and not impede it." Compliment municipal power is an assumption... Sure a city and the county could have mutual goals to bring "fortune 500 companies" in. However, that's not true for cities like Lake Elmo who denied Cabella's their request to build there (so they went to woodbury).  Again, it's a tinder box for the County board to say their economic development ideas are better that a city like Cottage Grove or Lake Elmo's EDA wants.

another example:
Washington County offered an elderly 80+ year old man just $423,500 for his historic farmstead in prime Lake Elmo location. He refused so the County took him to court and took his land from him behind the City of Lake Elmo's back: 


There isn't a need to change the law to allow the County to help a city prosper. 
The County Just created their own EDA in 2015 in preparation for this. There was no need to do this and it cost tax payers $210,000. More in the years to come:

ie: 
Washington County is working very closely with Afton on their Main Street road project. Tailoring parking spaces, lighting, and everything to the individual needs of each block... they don't need a law to cooperate or advocate for the city. OR when it came to Washington County who helped Lake Elmo get the trucking company Valley Cartage lured in with a tax abatement deal (because taxes in St. Croix Wi are way lower)... the county didn't need Economic Development power to help:

Fenton says it "will NOT duplicate or replace work of cities and other public agencies." HF 2820 completely duplicates the cities economic development power! That's the whole point of the law.

Don't take my word for it, here's the proof in HF2820 / SF2520:
They change the language of the law to specifically undermine cities in Section 1 of the law change!:
"For purposes of applying Minnesota Statutes, sections 469.090 to 
469.1081, to Washington County, notwithstanding Minnesota Statutes, section 469.090, 
subdivision 3, "city" means county and "city council" means county board." (emphasis added) It appears: Good bye "city" and "city council"!

Still don't believe me... here's how they change section 2 of the law:
"Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority 

Community Development Agency includes all of the area within the territorial boundaries 
of the county and includes the areas within the boundaries of every city in the county 
and the 
area areas of operation of city housing and redevelopment authorities 
and city economic development authorities 
in the county..." (emphasis added)... no language to say the cities have the last word.

Perhaps it's still not clear... Section 2a changes:
"Washington County Community Development Agency shall act and have exclusive jurisdiction for economic 
development, housing, or redevelopment duties in the statutory or home rule charter city or township" (emphasis added) if that doesn't say 'we own you cities' I don't know what else can convince you.

There's one tidbit to potentially give cities power and that's the final rule change... BUT... it's limited to "projects" so a great way to screw a city is to say it's not an economic development project... it's a transit project (pick your label). ie: foreign truck manufactures get around the truck import tax by shipping trucks in without their truck beds attached and claim they're not technically trucks. Political Semantics: Section 3 subdivision 2 
"the project must be authorized by resolution of the governing body of the statutory or home rule charter 
city or township with respect to each identified parcel of property" ... but remember the first change in the language of the law ""city" means county and "city council" means county board." So with clever quoting Fenton, and supporters, can claim that cities keep their rights while conveniently failing to mention that the law essentially erases the power of the city council by supplanting the County over City's rights. 

Lastly, and most importantly: 
She says "This bill follows the same process taken by CDAs established in Dakota, Scott, and Carver counties." Funny, because none of the 87 counties in MN find the need to change the law"Minnesota Statute, section 469: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTYes, I read all 233 pages of current law and nowhere in the law does it say anything about other counties getting special economic development power. In fact if you search for these other Counties their names don't even appear in all 233 pages of the law! 

Yes they can trample City rights with the proposal via the current law and it's VERY easy:

469.004 COUNTY AND MULTICOUNTY AUTHORITIES. subdivision 1: 
"No county authority shall transact any business or exercise any powers until the governing body of the county, by resolution, finds that there is need for a county authority to function in the county. The governing body shall consider the need for a county authority to function (1) on the governing body's own motion or (2) upon the filing of a petition signed by 25 qualified voters of the county asserting that there is need for a county authority to function in the county and requesting that the governing body so declare. The governing body shall adopt a resolution declaring that there is need for a county authority to function in the county if it makes the findings required in section 469.003, subdivision 1."

ie: the county can simply create a "motion" (a vote) and find 25 voters (might as well be zero) and simply decide what's best for any given city in WC.

The fact is this law does not need to be changed to do the things Fenton claims it will do for cities. Current law gives Counties all the power and freedom to work with cities that they need. The word "county" is mentioned 540 times in the law! Yet city is mentioned 1,370 times in the law... this points to the fact that the law should remain as is. That cities know what's best for themselves and Counties are not prevented from helping them. 

Why undo literally everything with these words 9 words in HF2820 / SF2520""city" means county and "city council" means county board."?

All the cities need to wake up to the motivation that is behind this law. HF2820 / SF2520 is an insult to every city, township, and municipality in Washington County and to the tax payers and voters of the cities.

Please tell you legislator to take their names off the bill:
Find out who your legislator is here: http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/

-Matt Behning



Surprise, surprise... still a month after 
Lake Elmo Kicks the Gateway Corridor 

out the Corridor planners are reporting to the county board they're still planning to roll through Lake Elmo.  No mention
of the boot they got the month prior.

How good it will be to have Fenton's Bill to tell Lake Elmo what's best for them?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Over 40 Red Rock Corridor Decision Makers Unable to Provide Answers About New Route

1/2017: Check out my interview on HastingsTV where I talk about the Red Rock Corridor, Route 363, and what modes of public transit actually work for South Washington County: Tom Bullington's Everybody Loves Politics: Matt Behning

12-21-16:
It's been an entire year... still no answer to our now ONE question:
How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the already built $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley? It has the same number of stations, yet the Red Rock corridor will be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)? see link for why this is the one question: 

Red Rock Corridor Faces Delays as 7 Facts Become Undeniable

10-26-16 Open House: A tax payer who attended, printed out this article and asked the County Staff at the event to answer the one Question from the Original 3 we asked in December 2015. The corridor planner at the event, Lyssa Leitner, did not know the answer. She put him in contact with the contracted planner who stated they were not familiar with the Red Line. Which still does not answer the question about the ridiculous low cost estimate of the project.

8-16 update: We still had no response so we asked again on the 15th and Commissioner Greene responded "With your blessing I'd like to run a little interference for Lyssa Leitner. With all the back-and-forth, and then the permanent state of flux caused by the legislative session, and the lack of a special legislative session, she has really had her hands full - and will for the foreseeable future." 

This is of course a disturbing response from an elected official so we responded to all 40 leaders asking why one question can not be answered. See the email: "8 months to respond to one serious Red Rock Corridor Q is not time enough?"

7-16 update: We didn't get a response so we brought it down to just one question. How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the already built $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley, have the same number of stations, yet be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)?

3-16 update:
still no answers despite Commissioner Greene of Hennepin County trying to help. So we emailed her that if the six questions were too pressing than how about at least these two questions. She agreed to try to get one of the 40+ leaders to get answers:

"
two unanswered questions that even supporters of the project are very interested to know:

I:  Why not include feeder bus lines to the corridor from outside communities and limit the station stops so riders are not taking over an hour to make a trip that would only take 20 minutes in a car? 

II: How can this new route possibly cost 62% less  than the already built $112 million dollar Red Line Corridor in Apple Valley? It has the same number of stations, yet the Red Rock Corridor will be over twice the length (13 vs 30 miles)"

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This post is part 3 on the coverage of the now approved Red Rock Corridor (RRC) route change that has doubled the number of station stops from 6 to 12, among other changes. The planners call it "The Implementation Plan". 

Part 1 began with the following post in December 2015 how Washington County Refuses to Disclose Latest Red Rock Corridor Cost Analysis
Part 2 in January 2016 revealed Proof Washington County Mislead us all about the Red Rock Corridor

The RRC Commission was unphased and on January 28th 2016 they approved the route change while the public had no access to the study data they based their decision on. On February 26th, the Implementation plan data was finally posted for the public. 

To prove to you that every single decision maker with this corridor could care less about the unaccountable disaster that this corridor has become I emailed over 40 leaders involved with the corridor decision making (posted below). I asked them to at least answer our questions. Only Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene responded. On February 16th Greene asked if her summarized version of my questions were correct (they were). She has yet to follow up. Even as of July 2016 when we emailed again asking if there's an answer. (and multiple more times)

I reviewed the Implementation Plan data and emailed my interpretation to the same 40+ decision makers and also received no reply.  

Quick Recap:
We know the plan reworks the corridor in an attempt to add ridership to the project at the cost of functionality. With the sacrifice of speed (the whole point of Bus "Rapid" Transit) they doubled the transit stops and took the buses further off the highway to loop about a larger service area. On paper, the plan doubles their service; however it will now take just over an hour to make a commute that would take 20 minutes in a car. 

We also know the plan attempts to rewrite history on the original cost estimate of the 6 stop corridor in order to make the cost of the 12 stop plan appear better. However, this tactic is not new, they took the $75 million quote on the 6 stop corridor plan in the 2007 AA study and brought it down to $45 million in the 2013 AAU study.

What's new:
In the Implementation plan data I found the huge cuts in costs were from apparently making up new costs from their previous studies with decreases in expense estimates on not only quantity but also unit costs... even for the same previously studied 6 stop BRT route.

For example, on the 2013 AAU study it was assumed a bus costs $700,000 on average and that 20 buses were needed for $14.3 million (p.7 of AAU pdf). In the Implementation plan they miraculously drop to just $500,000 and say they only planned to need 9 buses for the same 6 stop route for a cost that was only $4.7 million (p.16). That's almost $10 million dollar difference for what's supposed to be the same route's bus needs!


This is just for the bus costs! 

Three of their own different studies (AA, AAU, and Implementation) with the same exact route plan (a 6 stop BRT corridor) should not have very different cost estimates of $75, $45, and $28.6 million respectively... At least not without serious explanation. All citizens have is silence and no answers to valid questions. 

Again, to the 40+ elected and appointed officials below: This is your project with our (tax payer) money. Does no one care?

-Matt Behning

Red Rock Corridor Staff:
Lyssa Leitner, Washington County Red Rock Corridor Chief Planner, Lyssa.Leitner@co.washington.mn.us>
,
Hally Turner, Washington County Transportation Planner, hally.turner@co.washington.mn.us
Jan Lucke, Washington County Transportation Planning Manager, jan.lucke@co.washington.mn.us>

Don Theisen, Washington County Director of Public Works, Don.Theisen@co.washington.mn.us,
Matt Parent, Dakota County Transit Specialist, matthew.parent@co.dakota.mn.us
Laura Kearns, Washington County Office Specialist, laura.kearns@co.washington.mn.us

Washington County Commissioners:
karla.bigham@co.washington.mn.us
,
gary.kriesel@co.washington.mn.us,
lisa.weik@co.washington.mn.us 
fran.miron@co.washington.mn.us,
State Representatives:
rep.denny.mcnamara@house.mn,
rep.pat.garofalo@house.mn
sen.dave.thompson@senate.mn

rep.dan.schoen@house.mn
Hastings City Council Members:
Mayor Paul Hicks, mayorhicks@hastingsmn.gov
Lori Braucks, lbraucks@hastingsmn.gov
Mark Vaughan, mvaughan@hastingsmn.gov

Anthony Alongi, aalongi@hastingsmn.gov
Joe Balsanek, JBalsanek@hastingsmn.gov
Tony Nelson, tnelson@hastingsmn.gov

Danna Elling Schultz, DEllingschultz@hastingsmn.gov

St. Paul Park City Council Members:

mayor Keith Franke, kfranke@stpaulpark.org,

Sandi Dingle, sdingle@stpaulpark.org,
Jeff Swenson, jswenson@stpaulpark.org,
Tim Jones, tjones@stpaulpark.org,
Jennifer Cheesman, jcheesman@stpaulpark.org,


Cottage Grove City Council:
Mayor Myron Bailey, myronbailey@aol.com

Jen Peterson, councilmemberjen@aol.com
David Thiede, thiededj@gmail.com

Justin Olsen, olsenforcg@aol.com

Newport City Council:
Mayor Tim Geraghty, timghty@gmail.com
Bill Sumner, sumner.newport@gmail.com
Tom Ingemann tingemann@comcast.net

Tracy Rahm, councilmanrahm@gmail.com
Dan Lund, danlund@live.com

Met Council:
Adam Duininck, Chair of Met Council, 
Adam.Duininck@metc.state.mn.us

Other decision makers on Red Rock Corridor Commission who were not mentioned previously:
Marion Greene, Hennepin County Commissioner, marion.greene@hennepin.us
Janice Rettman, Ramsey County Commissioner, janice.rettman@co.ramsey.mn.us
Mike Slavik, Dakota County Commissioner, mike.slavik@co.dakota.mn.us
Cam Gordon, Minneapolis City Councilor, cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov,

Jim Mcdonough, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority member, jim.mcdonough@co.ramsey.mn.us,
Kevin Roggenbuck, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority member, kevin.roggenbuck@co.ramsey.mn.us

Others involved in decision making:
Lynne Bly from MDOT, lynne.bly@dot.state.mn.us,

Related County Corridor Articles:
At Her Own Crossroads: Will Representative Fenton Lead or Appease

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Washington/Ramsey County Garbage Processing Plant, 6 Months In; Failing? Counties Refuse to Answer.


The $170 Million Dollar Washington/Ramsey County Plan to Take Over Private Sector Garbage Processing was approved August of 2015. As predicted, the counties are letting tax payers and the environment down despite spending tens of millions of tax dollars. The evidence is the response (or lack of) I received to the email I sent to the Washington and Ramsey County Commissioners and the members of the "Recycling and Energy Board"... formerly the Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project Board. 

Six major problems in their plan I objectively questioned. The questions came from reviewing their meeting minutes found on their website morevaluelesstrash.com. I asked about facts such as evidence they don't have the contracts from haulers to deliver the required amount of trash that is burned at the incinerators in Red Wing and Mankato; How the tipping fees are no where near the levels needed to be sustainable; and the fact, with the EPA's own numbers, burning trash is not more environmentally safe. The response I received was from Judy Hunter, Senior Environmental Program Manager. She stated: 

On Tue, Mar 1, 2016, Judy Hunter <Judy.Hunter@co.washington.mn.us> wrote:
Matt,
Your email of Monday, February 25, 2015, Subject: 6 questions of Counties on your plan to run the garbage processing take over, sent to Zack Hansen (Ramsey County staff) and Ramsey and Washington County Commissioners, did not request any existing government data.
Information on the questions you raised can be found on the Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Board website www.morevaluelesstrash.com

Judy Hunter
Washington County

If they would have read the questions (assuming they did not), they should have realized the questions came from the lack of answers on the website referenced.

After you read the questions you may understand the gravity of why they are so important to answer. The matter is $170 million dollars serious; the freedom of the private garbage haulers being stripped; and not to mention the millions of tons of pollution that is put into the air.

Why is no one accountable enough to answer these questions? Feel free to copy and paste the email and send it to the recipients. These are our elected officials who appear to have no interest in providing answers to this massive problem.

-Matt Behning



From: Matt 
Date: Mon, Feb 15, 2016
Subject: 6 Questions of Counties on your plan to run the garbage processing take over
To: Zack.Hansen@co.ramsey.mn.usJudy.Hunter@co.washington.mn.us
Cc: blake.huffman@co.ramsey.mn.usMaryJo.McGuire@co.ramsey.mn.usjanice.rettman@co.ramsey.mn.usToni.Carter@co.ramsey.mn.usRafael.E.Ortega@co.ramsey.mn.usJim.McDonough@co.ramsey.mn.usVictoria.Reinhardt@co.ramsey.mn.usfran.miron@co.washington.mn.usted.bearth@co.washington.mn.usgary.kriesel@co.washington.mn.uslisa.weik@co.washington.mn.uskarla.bigham@co.washington.mn.us,


To the New Recycling and Energy Board and County Commissioners

Here are pivotal questions following the Ramsey and Washington Counties move into the private sector garbage processing business with the approval of the $170 million dollar plan that started with the purchase of RRT in Newport. 

Please answer these six questions for the media, the public, legislators, and others who have a right to know what your plan exactly is now 6 months after the purchase.

You (the board) state in the 2015 published Life Cycle Financial Analysis that you essentially went in blind with the purchase of the Newport facility (RRT): (p. 16 of the pdf)
"RRT has consistently refused to provide exact costs for operations nor the associated labor agreements, Xcel contracts, etc. that would provide actual operating cost data. The costs shown assume County(ies) operation."

This leads me to the following questions I hope the media will follow up on should you refuse to directly answer:

1.) I see on p.49 of your October 22nd meeting agenda that you expect 385,000 tons of MSW to be delivered to the Counties owned Resource Recovery plant. This seems possible now that you finally have a report from their open books (after the purchase) in this November 2015 posted document on your website: assessment_of_the_processing_capacity_part-1.pdf

However, on page 163 of your December R&E board meeting your consultant "Foth" says you need at 380,000 tons to be delivered to make good on the contracts with the garbage burners. On the next page it says "To date, Board staff has received indications of commitment to deliver approximately 310,000 tons per year of Ramsey/Washington waste." For one, "indications of commitment" seems shaky... tax payers need binding contracts to meet the 380,000 tons. Has the R&E board locked in the delivery contracts? If not, by when? Surely you're not banking it all on the MPCA to enforce the mandate you plan to put in place (in two years) to attempt to force haulers to deliver to your plant?


2.)  In accordance with the MPCA and EPA rules incinerating trash is the third priority for trash disposal with Source reduction and Recycling ranking highest. According to p. 26 of the Life Cycle Financial Analysis only 23% of (non-ferrous) recyclables (which was only aluminum to RRT according to your processing report p.23) are removed from the current set up at the Newport plant... implementing what you call "Mixed Waste Processing" would over triple that to 85% recovery according to your MWP fact sheet... why are you waiting until (at best) "potentially" 2018 to do this (according to p.42 of the May 28th 2015 Resource Recovery Board meeting)? You seem to over complicate MWP by insisting organics, ethanol production, and other expensive processes have to be involved right away... you don't... simply expand and improve the inefficient sorting at RRT. Sort out the recyclables (and organics just for compost not costly fuel production) similar to the sorting facility you toured in San Jose' California... this could be arranged in weeks to months not years. This would dramatically increase the County's 51% recycling rate closer to the 75% goal... where as the first two years of your plan do little difference from the strategy of the past.
not hard: 


3.)On page 24 of the December 2015 R&E meeting we find out that RRT was held to strict standards on the trash they sent to be burned to ensure it would be adequate for the power plant's use. Specifically, guarantees that it would burn for the electricity generators in Red Wing and Mankato. In the 61 page detailed processing report on how RRT works there is no mention of dedicated systems to remove paper, cardboard, wood, plastic and other recyclables that burn from the processed trash. When environmentalist Alan Muller toured the RRT plant last year and he confirmed "They take out a little steel and aluminum.  They don't take out paper and plastic and I can't imagine they every would as that's the fuel value the burners want."

According to your MWP fact sheet these combustible items make up a significant percentage of garbage. 

A recent 31 page environmental study of the Hennepin County Resource Recovery Facility and Incinerator found 51.4% of the material burned is recyclable material:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/169129725/MPIRG-Report-HERC-Reevaluating-Waste-Management-in-Minneapolis
This is a conservative estimate as other local environmentalists say the percentage of recyclable materials burned is closer to 66%. http://minneapolisneighborsforcleanair.com/herc

When RRT owned the Newport Facility they had every incentive to leave these combustible recyclables in the trash they sent out to be burned. They got bonuses for delivering over 250,000 tons (p.28 of December 3rd meeting). Most importantly it helped them meet two of their strict requirements (of many) 
1.) they had to deliver at least 320,000 tons of trash to be burned (p.50 of December 3rd meeting); 
2.) that trash had strict minimum combustibility standards or it was rejected and they were in violation of their contracts and fined six figure sums.

Now that the Government runs the plant you appear caught between meeting MPCA recycling goals by removing combustible recyclables from the product versus leaving them in like RRT had and Hennepin County does and ensuring you're meeting your major obligations to the incinerators. 

On page 163 of the December meeting your adviser "Foth" said “the Newport Facility can fulfill the Fuel Supply Agreement provided there is at least 380,000 tons of MSW delivered to the facility" to meet the contracts you are making with the garbage burners... That's cutting little to no room to remove recyclables since you are expecting 385,000 tons to be delivered. 

Hennepin County is choosing to continue to burn recyclables rather than removing them. However, you promised the public that buying RRT would promote our County's recycling; turns out the evidence shows that's not possible without drastically reducing the quality and quantity of the trash delivered under contract to Redwing and Mankato. What will the counties do in 2018 if you actually implement mixed waste processing and subsequently produce significantly less trash to burn that would likely not incinerate to the expected standards? 


4.) According to p.50 of October meeting you're expecting $26.9 million in revenue from haulers... Your math doesn't seem to add up: With your assumed 385,000 tons coming in and charging haulers the same $58/ton net they've been paying that's only $22.33 million in revenue (net)... It appears you're counting your gross income of $70/ton on 385,000 tons and neglecting to subtract the $4+ million you're paying out with the $12/ton rebate. Why not be honest and transparent and talk net instead of the false impressions gained with talking gross income?

5.) On that note, you claim to "save" $4.38 million dollars by lowering the $86.22 tipping fee down to $70 in the November County Board meeting report to the Board (p. 49). I'm not an accountant, but this doesn't add up as a savings since the facility is publicly owned. The tax payers are still covering the cost above $58/ton to process (same net tipping fee as last year). 

For example: Whether you left the tipping fee at $86.22 and still gave the $28/ton rebate or if you're doing a $70/ton tipping fee and shifting the rebate down to $12 (as you are now).... it's still the same $58/ton in revenue.... You might as well said you're putting the tipping fee at $58 and offered no more rebates... all three situations have the same net result. 

However, if you revealed the fact you are only making $58/ton net you'd lose millions a year like the other publicly owned recovery facilities that are left in MN... so you keep the fee at $70 and subsidize what looks good to $58 with a $12/ton rebate?:
Minnesota 2013 Public Facilities Tipping Fees: *(according to the RRPB Feasibility report)
*Olmsted Waste to Energy Facility (OWEF).............  $83/ton (losing a $1 million/yr)
*Perham Renewable Resource Facility..................... $100/ton
*Pope-Douglas Resource Recovery Facility............ $ 82/ton
*(closed in 2014) Red Wing Solid Waste Management ..... $72/ton (was losing $500,000/yr)
Polk County Resource Recovery Plant .............. $83.64/ton in 2014 (p.46 of Todd Co report)
*Hennepin Energy Resource Co. (HERC).......... $60/ton (loses $1.8 million/yr)    

Yet on page 59 you indicate you'll be making a $2 million dollar profit... Could you please better explain how a public owned facility only making net $58/ton is to be profitable?  Are you not calculating debt service, the $6.6 million in needed repairs, and all other costs that it takes to completely run this business? Or are some expenses shifted to the board to shelter losses? 
6.) At the August 27th meeting minutes (p. 6 of pdf) "Commissioner Bigham noted that when RRT announced their intent to sell, she changed her mind on the decision to acquire.  She stressed that the facility is not an incinerator nor is it a hazardous waste incinerator." Technically that's true, so is the fact more landfill use is not the right answer, nor is the status quo appropriate, we agree on a lot. However, the same rationale of detaching the Newport facility from the incinerators it directly fuels is the same logic as a tobacco company detaching themselves from what their product does to the public just because they're not directly lighting the cigarettes. The Newport facility may not light the garbage on fire... but the practice wouldn't happen with out processing plants like Newport. 

Please answer to the fact:
About 30% of garbage is unburned in the incinerators we send garbage to from the Newport facility and this toxic ash is sent to landfills according to your own research (p. 22 of Life Cycle Financial Analysis)
For the 70% that is burned off over 3 million tons of harmful chemicals are released into the air (not counting the hundreds of tons of CO2) according the MPCA. How come the Resource Recovery Board, or "Recycling and Energy Board" as you now call it, refused to consider any other recycling alternatives to compare along side the purchase of the Newport FacilityAlternatives such as a massive ramp up in sourced recycling incentives, weekly recycling pick ups (instead of every other week), and many more options that Environmentalists like Alan Muller, Nancy Cohen, Eureka recycling, Neighbors against the Burner, and the dozen other local leader's ideas for Recycling support. They spoke often at your meetings (including the October meeting). 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-Matt Behning