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Guest Column: Politicians: “William Charles always a ‘Good Neighbor’”
By Nichole Larison Sammon
Fox Ridge Subdivision resident
William Charles, through its numerous public statements concerning the proposed asphalt plant in the East State Street Quarry, wants residents of Winnebago County to have faith in the fact they are “good neighbors.” Through this article, we, residents just as you, would like to explore this image William Charles is working so hard to reinforce in the public space and our minds.
First, let me define what makes a “good neighbor.” For each of us, we consider our neighbors “good” when they take care of their property, mowing the lawn, for example, and do not infringe on our ability to enjoy our own property, such as no loud music or parties at 3 a.m.
William Charles and its multiple companies have many properties and, therefore, many neighbors. One could probably argue for the most part they are considered a “good neighbor.” However, there are several groups of neighbors that would disagree, and have for years. If William Charles wants to have permission from Winnebago County and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for another air pollution permit for the asphalt plant, we, as citizens, must ask how William Charles is treating their current authorizations to pollute in our county. Are they, in fact, “good neighbors” in how they treat our shared resource, air?
Fortunately, that information is available for any Winnebago County citizen wanting to know through the Department of State’s business online database and the IEPA online database. By simply searching for the different names of their companies, a wealth of information becomes available. William Charles’ companies have had more than 45 different company names. Some companies have management companies to reduce liability, some officers are paid through investment companies to lessen the burden of taxes, and some have dissolved or merged over the years.
All of which are normal business practices, except William Charles seems to take it to a new level of layering and assumed names, making it difficult to fully track all the business doings of this privately-held company. The following information pertaining to William Charles and their “good neighbor” status has been compiled through news articles, stories filed throughout the county of the past couple of years, and the various Illinois government databases.
Beginning sometime in 2008-2009, odors from the Winnebago County Landfill, where William Charles companies have IEPA air pollution permits, allegedly started to exceed IEPA standards, to the point where neighbors had to call and complain of extreme odors coming from the landfill. The IEPA completed a full inspection Dec. 29, 2009, and found notable issues. Feb. 4, 2009, the IEPA sent violation notices to Winnebago County Landfill and Winnebago County Energy Center, giving William Charles 45 days to fix the issue.
These issues seem to be tracked back to an acceptance of Chicago waste, Aug. 1, 2009, when William Charles Vice President John Lichty told Winnebago County board members suburban Chicago waste hauler Groot Industries wanted to bring tons of trash a day to the Winnebago County Landfill.
According to the Rockford Register Star, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen said at the time the work William Charles is doing on converting methane gas to energy was one of the reasons he supported the Groot deal. Scott Christiansen also stated, “Clearly, because of the capacity we have there, it shows that William Charles has been good stewards,” and, “…the work they’ve done in the alternative fuel technology can only help us as a region.”
What about helping the taxpayers? Even though it’s out-of-town garbage taking all the space in our landfill, Groot was given a reduced tipping rate, with William Charles reducing its rate as well for this “volume deal.” Why didn’t William Charles reduce its rate more, and the county keep the tipping fee at its normal rate? We’re the ones who will pay when that landfill is full. The IEPA says the landfill is only good for two more years at this rate.
Is it because William Charles always gets the preference over taxpayers, Mr. Chairman? Is that going to happen again with this asphalt plant next to the new NIU campus, Goldie B. Floberg, Clock Tower, Showplace 16 and all of the “neighboring” taxpayers, Mr. Chairman? I’m sure they’ll at least enjoy the massive new truck traffic.
In April 2010, according to WIFR-TV, the IEPA met with the Winnebago County Landfill owners. “The odor has increased to the point where I have been gagging, choking, you could almost feel particulate in every breath,” said Phillip Hanson to WIFR-TV.
The IEPA officials attributed the odor issues to the Winnebago County Landfill itself and the Winnebago County Energy Center. In October, the IEPA sent a Notice of Intent to Pursue Legal Action, citing violations of the air environmental statutes, and it turned the case over to the Illinois attorney general.
In February 2011, the IEPA still vigilantly auditing and testing the Winnebago Landfill monthly, sent out a public notice fact sheet stating they are still working with William Charles to determine the source of odors reported by neighbors and eliminate them. This was the last public record posted by the IEPA, but according to the IEPA, they are still visiting monthly, and complaints by neighbors still continue. In that same month, William Charles commented to the Rockford Register Star that they had sold the Winnebago County Landfill to a new owner, just four months after the notice from the IEPA to seek legal action against the company. William Charles representatives, during the ZBA meeting for the asphalt plant request in the East State Street Quarry, reaffirmed that William Charles sold the Winnebago County Landfill in February.
The new owner, according to the newspaper article, was to be called WME Holding, Co., LLC. The shareholders of this new entity listed in the article were that of John Lichty, a vice president of William Charles, Nate Howard, president of William Charles, Ltd., and William Charles, Ltd. William Charles, Ltd. was noted to have a minority stake in the company, but an active investor. William Charles Energy, LLC, would still remain under William Charles, Ltd. WME Holding, Co., LLC, according to the Illinois Department of State, has never filed an Articles of Organization or Doing Business As in the state of IL. When looking at the IEPA air permits, the owners have not been updated and still show an activation date of 2007. IEPA permits must keep current with owner and operator names, just as we must update our drivers’ license when we move; air permits must be maintained in the same fashion.
When looking into who actually owns the Winnebago County Landfill, one only has to go to the William Charles Ltd. website. Listed under Divisions of Waste and Environmental Services, the Winnebago County Landfill has its own page. Under news articles, the William Charles Waste Companies are listed and on the history page: “Today the Winnebago County Landfill is an integrated solid waste facility consisting of the landfill, recyclables processing center, a landfill gas-to-energy facility, a landscape waste compost facility and ancillary services. We are proud of our record of safety and efficiently serving our region for over 35 years.”
A link from William Charles’ website links to a new page, www.winnebagolandfill.com. This webpage, which has many graphical items similar to that of William Charles Ltd., shows at the top that it is actually a Rock River Environmental Services Inc. company. In looking into Rock River Environmental Services Inc., the articles of organization show John Lichty as the president. Furthermore, this company is listed on the Illinois Department of State’s database to operate under the name William Charles Waste Companies, Inc., and is the management company for the William Charles Environmental Service, Inc., William Charles Landfill Operations, LLC, WC Industrial, LLC, and Rock River Disposal Services, LLC. Rock River Disposal Services, LLC, is the company responsible for picking up the local Rockford trash and has a poster on the side of the truck that states a “William Charles Company.”
In looking into the Winnebago Landfill Company, LLC, its assumed name is listed as Rock River Environmental Services Landfill, LLC, and is managed by Winnebago Reclamation Service, Inc. The Winnebago Reclamation Service, Inc.’s president is listed as John Lichty. If you go back to the Winnebago Landfill website, there is a post by John: “With the transition to the Rock River Environmental Services name, we have decided to redesign all of our environmental websites! More information coming soon.” In trying to follow this map of companies and management names, more information would be helpful.
In looking at LinkedIn, a website maintained by the user, John Lichty listed himself as president/CEO Rock River Environmental Services, Inc. and the Vice President William Charles Waste Companies. The IEPA permit, from 2007, for the Winnebago Landfill has Evan Bushohl and Thomas Hilbert listed as contacts. Evan Bushohl listed himself as an Environmental Engineer at William Charles Waste Companies and Thomas Hilbert listed himself as the Chief Compliance officer, Rock River Environmental Services, Inc., and former Engineering Manager, William Charles Waste Companies. William Charles, Ltd., did assist in helping locate all of the above companies. Each company listed above has its articles of organization address listed as 1401 N. Second St., Rockford, in the Illinois Department of State database, the same address as William Charles, Ltd.; the building in Sinnissippi Park is leased from the Rockford Park District.
Is William Charles, Ltd., shuffling ownership, company names, and management names to limit liability?
For two years, neighbors of the Winnebago Landfill have been fighting for the same basic rights we all enjoy, the right to step out of our front door and breathe fresh air. It is true the IEPA works to protect our rights when it comes to air quality; but as this one example shows, it can take years. The company polluting can get multiple notices asking for compliance, multiple chances to make changes to their processes, and extra delay time before any case is taken up by our state. How long is too long to wait for your neighbor to become a “good neighbor”?
Former County Board member Paul Gorski (D-5) said: “The landfill in Ogle and Winnebago County were cited for violations by the IEPA, and they are working to coming into compliance. That has taken them over two years to rectify the problem where it wasn’t a daily issue. Residents started reporting the odors to me in August 2008, with the odors really picking up in October of 2008.
“The odors were strong and widespread, all the way into the City of Rockford in 2009,” Gorski added. “From late 2008 to late 2010, the odors were strong, persistent and frequent.
“I noticed a reduction in landfill odors at my home in the January 2011 time frame, with the odors not being very noticeable in the spring of this year,” Gorski said. “But over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed the odors late at night or early in the a.m., most recently last week for a night or two, but certainly not as often as they had been in the 2008-2010 time frame. I have talked to another resident near the landfill in the last month, and he’s having problems with the odors.”
Many times in the Winnebago County ZBA hearing on the proposed asphalt plant on East State Street — our back yard — William Charles employees touted the Nimtz quarry’s operations.
Nimtz quarry and asphalt plant
Now, consider the name confusion and a fine paid at Nimtz quarry with the “good” asphalt plant.
• Jan. 25, 2005, RBT Paving and Excavating Company LLC, Articles of Organization, signed by John Holmstrom, VP, Rockford Blacktop Construction Co., Management is listed as RBT Management Co.
• April 11, 2005, RBT Paving and Excavating Company LLC, changed its name to William Charles Construction Company, LLC, signed by John Holmstrom, VP, RBT Management Co.
• June 29, 2005, scheduled IEPA inspection for Nimtz quarry, Rockford Blacktop Construction Company
• Dec. 15, 2005, IEPA sent a violation notice to Myron Rafferty, at Rockford Blacktop Construction Company, Nimtz Road.
• Dec. 29, 2005, Rockford Sand and Gravel paid a $2,000 fine.
Should this company of companies, William Charles Ltd., the owner of William Charles Construction, be given the privilege to pollute our air with another permit? Is William Charles really a “Good Neighbor” as they claim they are with their statements? Do they walk the walk of being a “Good Neighbor,” or do they just talk the talk? With numerous violations and legal action facing them, the company reorganized officers, reordered stakeholders and shifted names around. As residents of Winnebago County, we cannot allow this to be our definition of “good neighbor.”
Reportedly, a special Winnebago County Zoning Committee meeting just on the special-use permit for the proposed asphalt plant will be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 404 Elm St., Room 303. Steve Schultz (R-2), the only sure opposition to the plant, will not be able to attend the meeting, and that is TRRT deadline night. Zoning Committee Chairman Jim Webster (R-2) said the meeting was not set to eliminate opposition attendance and presentation.
Please contact the other six members of the Zoning Committee: Frank M. Gambino (R-4), 5691 Rainsford Way, 815-637-0113 (email@example.com) (firstname.lastname@example.org); Angie Goral (D-7), 1108 N. Rockton Ave., (H) 815-964-0686 (email@example.com); Lynne Strathman (R-1), 4748 S. Meridian Road, 815-543-8755 (firstname.lastname@example.org); Pearl Hawks (D-6), 713 Lexington Ave., 815-963-2670 (email@example.com); Kevin Horstman (R-5), 6900 Woodcrest Pkwy., 815-979-7174 (firstname.lastname@example.org); Jim Webster (R-2), 16205 Boswell Road, Rockton, IL 61072, 815-629-2014 (email@example.com).
Also, please contact your Winnebago County Board members and chairman, and also ask them to vote “NO” on the proposed special-use permit, because in my opinion, backed by considerable research, William Charles has NOT demonstrated their ability to be a “Good Neighbor” — unless they have more privileges than other taxpayers.
Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this column.
From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2011, issue