Times Staff Reporter
Despite many pleas from public patrons and several board members, a resolution to raise the tipping fee at a Vigo County landfill ended in a stalemate vote (4-4) during the Clay-Owen-Vigo Solid Waste District board meeting Wednesday evening in Brazil City Hall chambers.
Executive Director Janet Reed told The Brazil Times it was out of necessity the tipping fee needed to be raised in order to bring back previous programs that have been lost.
"For the past five or six years, our revenue has steadily decreased, leaving less money for programs like Tox-Away Day that would improve environmental conditions," Reed explained. "We've tried to cut whatever we could in the past, but our revenues have been cut in half. We needed the tipping fee increase to survive."
The current tipping fee, which is a charge levied by the landfill to offset costs of maintaining the site, is 25 cents, well below the national average of $2 and the national maximum of $2.50.
"The district received 50 cents per ton until 2002. Due to a landfill expansion we were told the revenue would increase substantially," Reed explained. "It was at that time that the district fee was reduced to 25 cents per ton, and the Vigo County host fee was 28 cents per ton."
Reed added, "The revenue started to decline in 2007, which was the last year the district hosted a Tox-Away day. It has continued to drop since. The Republic Allied Merger had a huge impact that gave them many more disposal options close to our area."
During the meeting, board member Jon Stantz proposed raising the tipping fee to an amount at or above 50 cents per ton to increase revenue and maintain what the state mandates.
However, Vigo County Commissioner and board member Paul Mason said if the board passed Resolution 11-01, Vigo County would pull out of district, forcing Owen and Clay counties to become independent districts.
Mason told those in attendance the waste disposal company Republic Services, one of the main disposal companies who dumps waste at the landfill, said if the tipping fee was increased the company would charge its customers the cost difference, saddling tax payers with the tipping fee increase.
Currently, Vigo County hosts the landfill and has a contract with Republic Services, owner of the landfill located in Vigo County.
According to Reed, their contract states if the district were to increase their fee the county would lose said amount.
Vigo County receives 28 cents per ton.
If the tipping fee was increased to 50 cents per ton, then Vigo would receive 3 cents per ton.
"Any amount of up $2.50 per ton can be imposed on the landfill," Reed said. "So it would be to the boards discretion how much the county would get and how much the district would get."
Reed added, "Including Vigo County in the resolution meant that would supersede the current contract they are under, and could receive more funds. The get 28 cents per ton now, so it would have needed to be enough to offset the 28 cents they would lose."
For example, if the tipping fee was raised to 58 cents, they would lose their 28 cents.
However, if the tipping fee was raised to $1, Vigo County would get 42 cents per ton.
During the meeting, Stantz and Reed agreed the increase would only affect consumers by "a few pennies."
"But how long would it take for a household to generate a ton of waste," Reed argued rhetorically.
Brazil Mayor Ann Bradshaw and Clay County Commissioners Paul Sinders and Jack Withers, who are also board members, were all in favor of passing the resolution.
During the discussion portion of the meeting, board member Charlie Brown told those in attendance he worried passing the resolution would cause problems for Clay County, and the county might not be able to independently host a landfill.
Initially, Brown said if the board voted on the resolution he planned to abstain from the vote because of mixed feelings, but later voted against passing the resolution.
"Seventy-five percent of our revenue goes back into the private sector to help dispose of and recycle toxic chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, engine oil and other things that can be harmful to the environment," Reed explained. "During our last Tox-Away Day, we took in 735 vehicles and recycled 26,000 pounds of toxic waste. With our budget we won't be able to have programs like these."
Reed added there is much to be lost because of lack of funds.
"We provide the Clay County Highway Department with a means to dispose of the trash they pick up as they clean the road sides. We also provide the Community Corrections Department with bags to pick up trash and dispose of it," Reed said. "There are many things like appliances and heavy collection that can't be disposed of with normal trash pick-up. That's why Tox-Away Day and the other programs are important to keep intact."
Stantz made the motion to pass the resolution, but the vote was tied and not passed.
Board members Rich Foutch, George Jennings and Donnie Minnick were not present, as well as Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett who sent a letter saying he wanted to table the resolution for a later meeting.
Board President Judy Anderson voted against passing the resolution, but many patrons in attendance speculate whether she should have cast a vote because there wasn't a tie until after her vote.
There was no new business or old business discussed at the meeting.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 9:30 a.m., in the Commissioners Chambers in the Clay County Courthouse.