Barron County (WQOW) - The Barron County Board decided to hold off on a decision to close or keep open the county's Waste to Energy plant.
Officials said the plant incinerates 100 tons of garbage every single day, turning the waste into energy for the Barron County power grid and a cheese plant.
County Administrator Jeff French said while the plant produces energy, it's not creating a profit. The facility lost $5.5 million since its inception in 1986. Since the beginning of 2017 to May, the facility is running at a loss of more than $285,000.
More than 20 full time employees work at the facility right now, and the county said they are not sure if those jobs would be terminated, or reassigned, if the plant were to close.
"I've worked at the incinerator for six years now. It's more than a company for me, it's more than a job. It's my mortgage, it's family's livelihood. I have a daughter with special needs. It's my medical insurance. It's her prescriptions, her medical care," said Andy Hanson, a Waste to Energy employee.
Of the 25 to 30 people who spoke at the meeting, the majority were in favor of keeping the plant open. In the end, the county board decided to table the proposal indefinitely. French said they hope to call a special meeting in the near future, but nothing has been put on the schedule.
Posted on June 19, 2017:
Barron County (WQOW) - The future of a waste to energy plant in Barron County is hanging in the balance, and a vote Monday night could have an impact on many of the county's residents.
The plant is used by county residents to dispose of everyday items, like paper products, food waste and other non-recyclables. The waste is burned and turned into energy for the Barron County power grid and a cheese plant, located across from the waste to energy facility.
According to Jeff French, the administrator for Barron County, the plant's total operating losses have been more than $5.5 million since it's inception in 1986. French said the company's operation costs have continued to increase while their disposal fees have remained stagnant.
Currently, he said there are more than 20 full-time employees at the facility. If the plant closes, French said he is not sure if they would be terminated or reassigned within ZAC Incorporated, the company that currently runs the plant.
Repairs are also needed to keep the facility alive. On Monday night, the county will decide if it is worth spending money to fix equipment despite the plant already being in the red.
"Tonight (Monday), we have a long range decision that needs to be made," French said. "The decision comes down to, how much do we appreciate and want to continue what we are doing by burning garbage, versus shutting it down and redeveloping a municipal solid waste system that's based on land filling?"
An employee at the facility, who spoke with News 18 off camera, said more than 100 tons of garbage is disposed at the plant each day.
If the county board votes to shut down the plant, French said it would need to close within 90 days. The plant manager told News 18 there is a recycling facility on the property. If the plant is closed, that facility would require modification.
News 18 has a reporter at Monday's night meeting. We'll bring you the latest information on-air and online as it becomes available.