Former County Solid Waste Administrator says closing the county run landfill will cost residents more in the end

Vernon County Solid Waste & Recycling Department

Editors note: Gail Frie was the Vernon County Solids Waste Administrator and helped site the Vernon County Landfill when it first opened in 1993. Frie ran the Vernon County facility until 1993 and went on to run the Monroe County Solid Waste facility until 2020. Frie also served on the Viroqua City Council from 2003 to

The Vernon County Solid Waste/Recycling Department operates as a business enterprise fund generating its own revenues with little or no need for County tax dollars. Waste haulers that support the operation pay a tipping fee of $57.75/ton. A real value considering thirty years ago the landfill opened at $50/ton. Recycling services remain free of charge to any municipality that participates.

A second landfill expansion is needed to maintain the current operation with over $300,000 already spent on the process.  A North American waste company based out of Ontario, Canada has purchased the county’s largest waste hauling company and has voiced their future intentions to haul their Vernon County waste to their own landfill near Eau Claire.

How to maintain the landfill. First, all our Municipalities and citizens could direct their waste to the Vernon County Landfill which would secure the financial resources needed. Second, Vernon County could subsidize the Department with Tax Revenue until competition from other haulers enter our service aera. Third, Vernon County could get into the hauling business like Adam’s County to secure their needed waste stream. Fourth, Vernon County can let their waste go to Eau Claire while accepting waste from neighboring counties that don’t have a landfill.

Some County Board members prefer the easy way out by closing the landfill with no regard to long-term rising costs or services lost. Having local control of a “not for profit” department also prevents your municipality from the environmental liability of two landfills. Vernon County has one of the safest landfills in the nation. Our construction exceeds the Wisconsin and federal landfill codes in four different aeras. The landfill does not disappear and will have annual maintenance costs that must be paid by taxpayers, and these funds have already been set aside.

Services lost are too many to name here. Some of which are collected free or with minimal fees are oil, filters, antifreeze, batteries, electronics, mattresses, bulbs, tires, appliances, and Spring and Fall Hazardous Waste collections. Every Fall the Department provides dumpsters for deer waste to help prevent the spread of CWD. Dumpsters are also provided for your municipal spring and fall clean-up weekends. The Solid Waste Department has always helped out with natural disasters like the Viola tornado and the more recent floods. Dumpsters were provided amounting to over 360 ton as well as residents were allowed to haul in flood debris to the landfill at no charge. Annual Mississippi and Kickapoo River Clean-ups are also community beneficial services. The real cost of losing any of these services would encourage residents to go back to roadside or ditch dumping and burn barrels. With today’s land prices I don’t think we can afford that to happen. County Government is a service organization that needs to be reminded to remain proactive on environmental issues.

Having a local landfill and waste transfer station is having the best of two options to keep costs and services competitive. Long term savings will far exceed small short-term costs.

Sincerely, Gail Frie (past manager of the Vernon County Landfill)

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