County closer to rewriting waste plan

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Lenawee County has been in need of a new solid waste plan since its previous one leaned heavily on the existence of a landfill owned by Republic Services that was closed earlier this year. A new planning committee was recently named to undertake the task of making a new plan.

“The most immediate need for the planning committee is the fact that right now the Lenawee County plan is obsolete because it was based on having a landfill, which it no longer has,” said Marty Marshall, Lenawee County Administrator. “The committee is charged with making a decision as to how solid waste is going to be managed in this county.”

Marshall said there are other counties that do not have their own landfills, and in some cases all waste goes to a transfer station and is trucked elsewhere.

“In other cases the plan is just to have agreements with outside landfills that are going to accept the waste and haulers can haul it there,” said Marshall. “We have reciprocal agreements with surrounding counties, but now, with the closed landfill, we are not in a position to reciprocate.”

To begin the process Marshall has been working to assemble members for the committee after the Lenawee County Board of Commissioners voted to appoint a new planning group to revise the plan. He said the committee has a statutory configuration, and has to have four members representing the solid waste industry, whether it’s haulers or landfill operators or recyclers. Two members need to represent environmental concerns. Government representatives are also a part of the makeup, along with general members.

Selected for the committee so far are: Greg Stalter of Republic Services, Phil Duckham of Modern Waste Systems, Drew Koet of Waste Management and Brad McQuiston of Re-Community. Stephen May, Lenawee County’s Drain Commissioner, was named as an environmental group representative, and Marshall said a second environmental representative was still being sought.

Government representatives include Lenawee County Commission chairman John Tuckerman, Rollin Township supervisor John Jenkins, Adrian Mayor Jim Berryman, and Region 3 Planning Commission member Grant Bauman. Brian Alexander of Wacker Industries will represent industrial waste generators.

General public representatives include: Jim Palmer, Raisin Township, Leo Oswald, Rome Township, and Tom Van Wagner, retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lenawee County.

Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch, who serves on the county’s Recycling Committee for Lenawee County, said he was surprised that the committee was not given an opportunity to help come up with representatives for the new group, and also a little disappointed that there isn’t a Tecumseh representative.

“It’s not that we consider Tecumseh any more important in the county than anybody else or that I have a problem with anyone named on the committee,” said Welch. “I just think Tecumseh should have had some representation because we were one of the communities that continued to take our trash there, even at a higher cost than if we had gone to the lowest bid, and we’re one of the communities that has curbside recycling. It just would have been nice to have some input.”

Welch expressed concerns earlier this year when the landfill closed and the county faced losing tipping fees, suggesting that the county should pay off its debt or earmark funds for that purpose.

“I’ve made the suggestion that they escrow enough funds to pay off that debt so if they do run out, the county is not burdened having to come up with it,” Welch said.

He also stresses the importance of communication between the local and county levels of government. “We need to collectively work on those kinds of things,” he said. “I think there needs to be more discussion with more units of government for the critical decisions that are needing to be made.”

Marshall said while the charge of the new committee is to come up with the plan of what will be done with the solid waste, it may also choose to explore future revenue options. He said at the last county commissioner’s meeting it was reported that a fund balance of approximately $160,000 exists, and based on projected annual expenditures, the county believes it can operate its program for approximately three years. He said that does include payments on compactors and installing cameras for some video surveillance.

“We’re continuing to run the solid waste recycling center down the street from the courthouse, and will continue to do twice-a-year collections, including tires and electronics,” Marshall said, adding that the collections are almost a break-even situation with small donations provided for what is brought in on such items as tires.

The process of redoing the solid waste plan is expected to take between two and three years, once the committee begins meeting in January.

“We’ve had conversations with Christina Miller from the Department of Environmental Quality,” said Marshall. “She supervises the state’s plans, and based on what she’s seen, that’s about how long it takes. If the committee decides to look at the revenue options, it may take a little longer.”




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