Guest Column: County board should postpone landfill expansion vote

July 11, 2012

By Paul Gorski

The Winnebago County Board should postpone the landfill expansion vote until a new board is in place later this year. Many good reasons exist to postpone the vote, but here are just three: legal, environmental and impact on economic development.

As I outlined in my guest column “County opens itself up to a landfill lawsuit” (May 9-15 issue of The Rock River Times), the county risks an unnecessary lawsuit, and the expenses a lawsuit entails, by voting on the landfill expansion now.

The landfill expansion process requires all testimony supporting or opposing the expansion be presented in open, organized hearings. However, just months before the landfill expansion hearings, the county board voted on two other pieces of landfill-related legislation. Testimony or input regarding the landfill expansion may have been introduced, without the opportunity to rebut or challenge the information. Allowing testimony to be presented outside the hearing process lays the groundwork for a lawsuit challenging the process.

Waiting until a new board is in place later this year will avoid that conflict of interest, as the new board is technically a different board.

Furthermore, there are still landfill odor problems. Air quality is an important factor in the quality of life. What prospective home or business owner will purchase property in an area that smells like garbage? Just this past Sunday night, July 8, after our local heat wave ended and we could open our windows, we were greeted with the sweet smell of landfill. Many residents have reported in the past that the odors were so strong as to give them headaches or make them feel nauseous. I haven’t heard those stories lately, but the odors remain.

We should not approve the expansion of the landfill until all the odor concerns have been addressed.

I’m for economic development” is a common politician tag line. The landfill expansion risks taxpayer investments in land surrounding the landfill, and the economic development of that region. The county and local developers have worked to create a special economic development zone near the landfill, an area that now may be adversely affected by the landfill expansion. New business may not want to build right next to the new, expanded landfill, jeopardizing public and private investments.

We need to address economic development concerns before the expansion is approved.

I hold out little hope that the landfill expansion can be stopped. So, I’m simply asking the county board to postpone the expansion vote — to reduce the chance of a lawsuit, to give time for the landfill to address all odor concerns, and to assess the economic impact of an expanded landfill on the economic development of adjacent properties.

Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.

From the July 11-17, 2012, issue

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