RF Council renews disposal contract, hears from Pierce County Health Officer
The River Falls Common Council met in regular session September 8, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. via Cisco Webex. Answering to roll call were Council members Todd Bjerstedt, Sean Downing, Christopher Gagne, Scott Morrissette, Dianne Odeen, Ben Plunkett, and Hal Watson. With a motion by Gagne that was seconded by Watson, the meeting minutes for the August 18th and August 25th meetings were approved.
Later in the meeting, the Council also moved to extend the city’s contract with Advanced Disposal. On a 6-1 vote, the contract extension was approved, with Plunkett being the sole ‘no’ vote. Earlier in discussion of the contract, Plunkett had raised concerns during over what he called “recycled materials being contaminated” in the single stream recycling process, resulting in “an energy cost rather than an energy savings.” Plunkett also raised questions on the way that this process was affecting American jobs regarding the suitability of materials to be reused in American manufacturing, as opposed to being shipped overseas and then reimported as manufactured goods. River Falls Utilities Director Kevin Westhuis invited Jim Smith as district manager of Advanced Disposal to answer Plunkett’s question.
“All products that have a market are recycled,” Smith told the assembled council members. “The processing cost obviously has increased dramatically, and also the value of each of the commodities has reduced significantly over the last two years.” Smith then told Westhuis he would get the numbers in question to the city, and Westhuis told Plunkett he would pass them along to him. From extending the city’s waste disposal with Advanced Disposal it was into public health and face coverings, with Pierce County Health Officer AZ Snyder also appearing to the Council by Cisco Webex.
“AZ, are you there?” Mayor Toland asked, receiving an affirmative answer. Downing was the first council member to question Snyder, asking for an update on how contact tracing was going for COVID-19.
“I know in bigger cities and larger areas they’ve been having some difficulty,” he said, “but I’m assuming it’s going better here because we have less density.” Snyder was somewhat nuanced in her answer.
“Contact tracing is going ok,” she said, going on to say that while most people were helpful and cooperative, there had been a few cases where people had been refusing to call public health back or provide contact information.
“It seems to go in spurts,” Snyder said. “We try everything we can to work with people to get voluntary compliance. The turnaround time from a positive test result to patient notification was 24 hours, with another 24 hours for those in close contact with the person who had a positive test result. Snyder also said that there was a team of UWRiver Falls staff devoted to contact tracing and that it had been going well on the local campus. UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire were reported in the meantime to be struggling and were a few weeks ahead of River Falls in terms of when students had come back to campus. As of the present, just four students at UW-River Falls had tested positive through the anti-gen test used for COVID, while four had tested positive with the PCR or polymerase chain reaction test, the latter being considered the “gold standard” because it looks for the actual RNA of the new coronavirus. Unlike bacterial driven illnesses which have cells, a nucleus and DNA, viruses replicate by hijacking a host cell’s nucleus to turn out copies of itself, until the cell dies and releases the virus to repeat the process elsewhere in the body. Because of this difference with bacterial-driven illnesses, viruses are not responsive to antibiotics, nor are they considered to be “life” by the standards of modern biology.
“Sounds like you have good cooperation,” Downing said of the efforts to fight COVID. “I like to hear that. Thanks AZ.”