By Steve Schultz
Winnebago County Board Member (R-2)
The Host County Agreement between Winnebago County and Winnebago Landfill Company (a William Charles company) passed at the Nov. 22 meeting by a vote of 24-1. I was the lone “no” vote on this issue. Let me tell you why I did not vote for the agreement.
The county board members received the draft agreement via e-mail Thursday, Nov. 17 (only five days before the vote that will last for decades). The agreement paves the way for a massive expansion of the current landfill and covers the entire period of operation of the landfill expansion. This expansion will likely open in the year 2020, and is estimated to operate from 28 to 32 years after that date. The 16-page agreement contained significant changes from the current agreement. The Nov. 17 e-mail did not contain the current agreement or the current applicable ordinance that is also being amended (I requested these documents and received them in response Nov. 21 — only one day before the vote).
When this agreement came up for a vote at the Nov. 22 meeting, I noted the fact that this was a complex document the board members only recently received. This agreement represented a significant decision that would impact the county for many years to come. My motion for a layover to have further time to study the agreement died for the lack of a second.
In light of these resource uses, this “imported” garbage should provide a premium to the county, not be given an unreasonably discounted fee. I also spoke against the inflation factor used in the new agreement (one increase every five years, based on the average inflation rate … not the cumulative inflation over that five-year period).
The morning after this vote, I had additional time to review the changes in the new agreement versus the old one. I found that the old rate of $3.27/ton for garbage transported from outside the county was reduced to $2.27/ton for volumes over 1,001 tons per day from any waste hauling company (not just the current Groot contract).
That means our county is now a preferred receptacle for large volumes of waste from outside Winnebago County. I also found that the current agreement provided for an inflation increase every year instead of every five years. These discoveries were the very reason why I wanted more time to review the new agreement.
At the Nov. 10 county board meeting, I was accused by one of my fellow board members of “impugning the character of this board” due to the following quote, which was in our local daily paper, when I spoke against the East State asphalt plant special-use permit request (which subsequently passed 20-7): ‘“The loss of trust in our government stems from the belief that the interests of a few well-connected entities will always prevail over the interests of the majority of our citizens,” Schultz said. “Tonight’s vote on this petition will either reinforce this belief or take a small step in the direction of dispelling it.”’
The sense of outrage expressed by my colleague is mild in comparison to my outrage regarding this vote. Our board’s consistent fast-tracking of special interests’ requests is unacceptable. Our citizens are not ignorant concerning the close ties certain special interests have with our board. They should expect us to provide more scrutiny, and not less, on the items these special interests bring forward for our review and decisions.
I believe our citizens deserve better service than we are currently giving them. I anticipate that my opponent in the March primary will receive large donations, either directly or indirectly, from the special interests that I referenced previously. I am convinced that we will not see a change in the current decision-making process, which benefits those few who have the most to gain. Our citizens must exercise their right to hold their elected officials accountable for actions like the fast-track approval of this host county agreement.
Respected candidates who have no ties to special interests must have the courage to run for office, and our citizens must elect these good representatives in upcoming elections. This is my hope for the future.
From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2011, issue