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Governor plans to pull plug on Clean Sweep

St. Croix County Board members learned a bitter truth Monday: When the state economizes, local governments often pick up the bill.

For 15 straight years, St. Croix farms, small businesses and residents have used Clean Sweep collections to dispose of unused hazardous chemicals. But in his budget proposal Gov. Jim Doyle cuts about $1 million in grants for the program.

When it developed its 2009 budget, the county set aside $50,000 for two Clean Sweeps, one in spring and one in the fall, said Planning and Zoning Director Dave Fodroczi. The county expected it would get about $30,000 from the state and was approved for that grant late last year.

But the governor's 2009-2011 budget proposal eliminates about $1 million in Clean Sweep grants, leaving St. Croix $30,000 short.

St. Croix held its first Clean Sweep in 1989 and has held collections consistently since 1994. Recently two collections have been held each year.

"This has been an incredibly important and well used program throughout the county," said Fodroczi. Last year nearly 43,000 pounds of waste chemicals were collected.

There is a statewide movement to restore Clean Sweep funding to Wisconsin's budget, but St. Croix's first collection is set for May and the state budget won't be finished by then, said Fodroczi.

The spring collection is the better used of the two and eats up about 60% of the project costs, he said. Using all the county money for this one collection will still leave the budget $10,000 short, said Fodroczi.

Cancelling Clean Sweep would encourage illegal dumping and unsafe and unwise storage of hazardous chemicals, warned Supervisor Daryl Standafer, North Hudson.

"(People) are beginning to realize that we can't just throw this stuff out," said Supervisor Ken Kolbe, Hudson, pointing to an increased use over time. He suggested more frequent drives and wondered if that would cost less.

"We hear the pressure growing to expand this service," agreed Fodroczi. But he said the county doesn't have the staff, the facilities or the money to do more.

Supervisor Steve Hermsen, Hudson, suggested charging users a fixed amount per pound of chemical.

"(That) just sounds like a nightmare," said Supervisor Buck Malick, town of Hudson. He said charging would involved setting up scales and opening partially empty containers.

A fee would discourage use, predicted Standafer.

Malick's motion to go ahead with the May Clean Sweep, using funds from the county's contingency fund if necessary, was adopted.