County explores garbage fee spending

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen wants to use money from a combination garbage tipping and landfill host fee for economic development. However, questions remain about how the County will verify the tipping portion of the fee.

Part of the proposed combination fee may be negotiated with Winnebago Reclamation Inc., as a cost paid to the County for hosting Winnebago Reclamation’s Pagel Pit landfill expansion. The other part of the combination fee may be determined by the tons of trash dumped into Pagel Pit, which is known as a tipping fee.

If implemented, Christiansen expects the garbage fee will generate about $600,000 in annual revenue, which would be funneled into the general fund for possible use for economic development.

State law allows municipalities with a population greater than 150,000 to charge up to $1.27 per ton of garbage dumped into a local landfill. However, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site, local landfill fees “may only be used for solid waste purposes.”

However, Gary Kovanda, deputy state’s attorney, said a host fee can be used for economic development, solid waste or other expenditures without the restrictions of a local landfill fee. He added that a host fee can be negotiated as either a flat fee or based on tons of trash dumped into the landfill.

Christiansen acknowledged that independently verifying the amount of garbage going into the dump is a problem for the County. No state or local government-paid employee is at Pagel Pit to verify the source, type and weight of garbage dumped into Pagel Pit (see Feb. 23 article “Garbage contracts stink”).

“You raise a good point,” Christiansen said in response to verifying the tons of garbage.

The Rock River Times’ research indicated in the Feb. 23 article that the cities of Loves Park and Rockford have no way to enforce the favored rate clauses of their contracts. The contracts indicate the cities will receive the lowest possible rate for collection and disposal of residential garbage.

However, under the existing system, there is no way to enforce the clause because no independent inspector is on site to monitor trucks and weight scales, as was once done in the mid-1970s. Instead, the cities have to trust Winnebago Reclamation is reporting accurate trash weights.

According to City of Rockford officials, Rockford dumped 55,527 tons of residential garbage into Pagel Pit in 2004. The Rock River Times estimated that in 2004, Loves Park generated about 7,800 tons of residential garbage.

County officials adopted a resolution in March to authorize Christiansen to negotiate a host fee with Winnebago Reclamation, which is a subsidiary of William Charles Inc.

Supporters of the County’s leaf burning ban want revenue from the garbage fee to offset costs associated with hauling leaves that would normally be burned in the fall and spring.

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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