Kandiyohi County to sell former recycling center to West Central Sanitation


— It took three tries, but

Kandiyohi County

finally found a buyer for the former county recycling center in Willmar.


Kandiyohi County Board

accepted the high bid of $552,000 from Williamson Properties LLC at Tuesday's board meeting. The bid winner is owned by West Central Sanitation, said Gary Geer, county Environmental Services director.

West Central Sanitation

, based in Willmar, provides residential and commercial garbage pickup, recycling and construction roll-off services in west central and central Minnesota. It provides single-sort recycling services to the entire county through a contract with the county.

"This is a good fit," said Commissioner Corky Berg.

For nearly three decades, Kandiyohi County operated its own multi-sort recycling program at the facility located on the 1400 block of 22nd Street Southwest in Willmar. As the years passed, the

county saw the tonnage of recyclables collected plateau

, revenue stall and by 2020 there was talk of the facility needing extensive and expensive upgrades to continue operating.

The coronavirus pandemic also played a major part in the sudden closure of the county's program. The facility's employees mostly came from the West Central Industries vocational rehabilitation facility or the county's Sentence to Serve program. During the pandemic, both were unable to send workers.

"That put us on the fast track, bumped us up to make a decision," Geer said.

On May 5, 2020, the

County Board unanimously approved a contract with West Central Sanitation

to provide single-sort recycling in the county. Soon afterward the decision was made to sell all the equipment in the recycling center.

Over the next few years, then-County Administrator Larry Kleindl and staff worked to sell the building. While there was some interest, nothing panned out, so the decision was made to sell the building through a bid process.

The first round of bidding happened in November 2022 and there were no bids received. The county tried again in early 2023 and received one bid for $90,000. That bid was rejected by the County Board.

"Some discussion was held at that time about the value of the structure," Geer said. "Staff had given you input of $481,000 to kind of make us whole with that building, that property."

The county again advertised for bids and during the April 18 board meeting, Geer opened six bids for the property. The bids ranged from $250,025 to $552,000. Staff reviewed the bids and found them all to be complete, allowing the County Board to officially award the bid to Williamson Properties.

Prior to the unanimous vote being cast to award the bid, Commissioner Steve Gardner discussed a letter he had received from a constituent wondering if it was a good idea to sell the facility. Gardner shared that the letter writer said they believed single-sort recycling wasn't sustainable and that the county might need to offer other options in the future. There was also a request to offer more recycling pickup in the county's rural areas.

Geer agreed that single-sort recycling isn't perfect, but said that some of those issues could be solved if residents were more careful about what they put in the bins. Things such as plastic bags cause quite a few headaches in recycling facilities because they get stuck in the machines.

"Some of their biggest problems with sorting is our people's lack of attention to what should be put in the container as recyclables," Geer said.

When it comes to increasing recycling pickups and other issues, the board will discuss those at another time, Commissioner Roger Imdieke said.