Gloria Lansin speaks in favor of recycling in Polk County.

The Polk County Recycling Center will remain open after the Polk County voted unanimously to use up to 1.6 million dollars for the necessary and reasonable upgrades using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Although it was a unanimous decision to keep the Polk County Recycling Center open, there was a disagreement leading up to the vote, revolving around a Letter to the editor written to the Amery Free Press.

Supervisor Fran Duncanson had a published Letter to the editor in the Sept. 7, 2021, edition of the Amery Free Press concerning the Polk County Recycling Center. The letter read:

Greeting Polk County Citizens,

As you may know the Polk County Board of Supervisors is in the process of addressing recycling in Polk County. This is through both the County Recycling ordinance and in assessing whether to close the Center down and privatize recycling services.

Some County officials have publicly stated they want to “improve” recycling in Polk County by closing the Recycling Center. I do not agree with this approach. Some years the Recycling Center makes money, some years it does not. I believe recycling is a needed and appropriate service for the County to provide, not a business to make money. We don’t ask how much money other County Departments make like the Highway Dept or the Sherriff’s Dept, nor should we.

Closing the Recycling Center will force each local Town, City, and Village to manage and pay for recycling sites in their municipality, adding to the burdens of what municipalities are responsible for. According to the study by Foth, (a consultant hired by the County) this would lead to privatization of the service and double the cost of recycling for households in Polk County.

Overall, investing in the needed improvements will come at a cheaper price to the taxpayers. According to Foth, to keep the center open will cost Polk County households an estimated $10.52 a year, versus $26.08 a year by closing it down and privatizing the service.

The County has made minimal capital improvements to the Recycling Center since it opened 30 years ago. The price tag for improvements is approximately $1 million. The good news is the County has the money without impacting your tax bill by using part of undesignated fund reserves. This fund balance was recently increased by $1.6 million for funds that were unexpended in 2020 and will most likely be increased again in the near future by over $4 million in America Rescue Plan Act monies.

Other benefits to keeping the Recycling Center open is the County will be able to receive a better price for our recyclables and improve safety and efficiency. The County could also increase the availability of recycling bins around the County, thereby improving recycling opportunities for rural areas.

Please talk to your Polk County Supervisor and local officials about the Recycling Center. You may also send comments to all the Supervisors by emailing it to the Polk County Clerk Lisa Ross at for distribution to the County Board Supervisors.

The letter became the topic of discussion at the Oct. 13, 2021, General Government Committee Meeting. A recycling resolution drafted by Duncanson was on the agenda for the meeting. The Amery Woman’s Club, who have been advocates and educators of recycling came to show support of keeping the Polk County Recycling Center open. Gloria Lansin of the club spoke during Public Comment. “I grew up on a farm where we recycled everything,” said Lansin. She continued, “I would like the Board of Supervisors to strongly consider revamping the recycling center. This is for the citizens of Polk County. You received 8.9M dollars of stimulus money. I understand you are selling the sand pit for another million. It is in your best interest to revamp the center, get it going get it improved, put some programs in place to educate the citizens of Polk County because that is what is really important.”

Lansin said the City of Eau Claire had to close half of their wells because of contamination from things people had thrown away. “I don’t want that to happen up here,” she said. Lansin said the Woman’s Club strongly recommended keeping the recycling center open. “You have the ability to do it. We think expanding the program would even be better,” said Lansin.

Supervisor Chris Nelson said he had a point of order (an announcement rules are not being followed) concerning the recycling resolution Duncanson had drafted.

Nelson said a number of Supervisors had received phone calls because of the Duncanson’s letter in the Amery Free Press. He questioned whether Duncanson’s letter created a walking quorum.

A walking quorum can occur if members of a governmental body participate in a series of meetings among separate groups of members, each with less than a quorum, to discuss business and come to tacit or express consensus over an issue that will come before the entire body. A walking quorum can occur as a result of phone conversations or the exchange of emails, social media or text messaging.

Nelson said, “A supervisor in a Letter to the editor laid out basically what she wanted in a resolution and told people to call us in obvious support of that resolution. My concern is when a supervisor does and doesn’t just say, ‘Hey I think we should improve the recycling center’ and actually asks someone to contact me or her to tell me to vote for a resolution, is there the concern of a walking quorum?”

Corporation Counsel Malia Malone said when a supervisor expresses an opinion out in a public forum, such as in a Letter to the editor or a blog post, advocating for positions is fine, but once you say other people need to contact other elected officials advocating for a position, it could be a quorum.

Malone said this sort of thing should be avoided in the future.

Duncanson asked why Corporation Counsel had not brought this issue up when Duncanson asked for her resolution to be reviewed.

Malone responded, “So now I read every single Letter to the editor that is written by a County Board Supervisor to determine if there is an issue in all of the newspapers? I mean, that is not just something I would do.”

The topic arose again at the Oct. 19 meeting of the Polk County Board when Nelson shared with all supervisors Corporation Counsel said the board should be advised against urging the public to action, rather stating an opinion out of call to action.

Malone said, “Having a Letter to the editor that just simply states an opinion and encourages others to become informed is not a violation of the open meetings law, but once you ask other citizens to contact supervisors to urge them to vote in conformity with your particular viewpoint, then it would cross the line.”

Duncanson responded, “I think this is a mischaracterization of what I actually wrote because I never asked any member of the public to contact a supervisor on my behalf.” She said she had also never asked anyone to advocate for a point of view for or against the issue.

Nelson said he appreciated her words. “I can tell you in the job I have there’s a lot of mischaracterizations every single day too.”

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