Parties agree on trash proposal, but only in principle

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The Marion County Commission Monday proposed a draft agreement for solid waste disposal to KC Development owners and representatives of cities that was accepted in intent but not in dollar figures.

The draft, prepared by Jim Kaup, Topeka attorney representing the Commission in solid-waste matters, proposed a $38 per ton base rate on trash delivered by county-licensed collectors plus a supplemental disposal fee of $6 per ton paid by the county.

Copies of the draft were passed out to everyone in a commission room packed with representatives of the county’s cities, interested citizens and the KC owners.

The proposal would calculate the tonnage on scales located at the KC Development transfer station in Marion although KC owners Rex Savage and Theo Bond were quick to point out that they aren’t prepared to make the capital outlay for such scales.

The draft outlined commission intent to maintain the working status quo while restoring a “workable arrangement” among the cities, the county and KC.

The new agreement would replace the contract, which KC has been attempting to collect payment balances on from the county, and would expire Sept. 16, 2006.

The county would not set fees for out-of-county waste or other non-licensed persons bringing trash to the transfer station, would not mandate that citizens use licensed haulers, and would not interfere with how cities collect solid waste.

The agreement obliges cities to take all legal, reasonable measures to make sure that the waste they generate is delivered to the transfer station.

By the end of the meeting, the parties were agreeing to keep much of the agreement’s language while the county agreed to come up with new dollar figures for next week.

Savage said, “I can agree with 90 percent of the verbage, but I don’t agree to the 10 percent with all the meat.

“Just to cut to the chase, the concept could be made to work, but the numbers aren’t close to right. We’ll take in 7,000 tons of trash in the county in a year when we include Peabody. It looks like it multiplies out so we take Peabody’s trash with no more money.”

Commissioner Leroy Wetta immediately said, “Maybe we could take some more time to put figures together.”

Savage said, “I don’t care if you call the units tons, boxes, households or whatever in the agreement, just so we’re talking a fairly stable pool of trash and stable money so we can deal with it.

“I think we’re opening a can of worms again going down this road to do this whole thing over again, but then, this is worm-farm country.

“My disappointment is that we may be back to a completly different thought again, and time is not on our side.”

Wetta said the commission’s main interest is to keep the system that’s working in place, so “that we have a timely, efficient method of waste disposal. We can’t let this stuff pile up.

“If it takes county money to do it, then we need to bite the bullet to move this forward.”

Bond said: “Then buy us out. We keep coming in to speak with you, and can’t get a reply. We can’t get along with you. Come back with an offer.

“I’m not talking yesterday. I’m talking about the two years this has taken, and we still can’t get it done.”

Commission Chairman Bob Hein asked if the cities wanted to comment.

Tampa Mayor Jim Clemmer asked how the $38 per ton figure was arrived at.

Wetta said it was taken out of thin air, an attempt to somewhat match other areas, and not something the county is committed to.

Dennis Nichols, Marion city administrator, said the city usually figures its disposal tons at close to $50 to $55 per ton, but noted that the figure would change for each city based on such things as the proportion of commercial to residential garbage.

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said smaller cities like Peabody, Goessel and others need to be consulted to see how their figures would compare.

Dalke said she had been in favor of basing agreements on tonnage instead of households since the early 1980s.

She added: “I think it needs to be in the neighborhood of what’s paid in other counties. I don’t know what to do, we’ve been down this road so many times.”

Dalke and Savage came up with varying prices they had heard of with funds coming from both disposal charges and taxation.

Savage said volume is the main factor in lowering costs, the higher the tonnage, the less per ton it costs to keep the system going.

Arlen Goertzen, public works director for Goessel, said residential pickup there is running $38 a ton for disposal.

Savage said Dickinson County residents generating 60 tons a day pay a publicly owned transfer station $37 a ton at the gate plus a $12 a ton assessment.

Dalke said Stutzman trash hauling service reports a $27 a ton charge at the Waste Connections gate in Wichita.

Other examples ranged from $28 a ton to $70 a ton in neighboring counties.

Rocky Hett said a property tax assessment for any of it wouldn’t be fair to the out-of-county landowners he rents farmland from, who
wouldn’t receive any benefits.

Willard Hett said he didn’t think farmers needed to be paying any more taxes.

Shirley Groening said she thought the assessment discussed the week before was a good idea if it would extend trash disposal for rural residents to the transfer station at no extra charge.

Hein said, “Well, we need to come up with a solution.”

Bond said: “I told you what the solution is, Bob. You take it. Then you can set whatever charges you want. We have to make a living.

“You can haul it for $10 a ton if you want to. You don’t have to make a living. Those other counties have transfer stations that are publicly owned. That’s your solution.”

Savage added: “That’s what the commissioners wanted to do at one time. It’s not fair that we are stuck with a substantial capital investment under contract with you when the payments scheduled are allowed to fall in the hole.”

Hein asked, “Could we negotiate a price?”

Bond said: “You have your own appraisal of it. Send over your county attorney or one of you three come over so we can get some movement.”

Savage said he and Bond didn’t mean to criticize Kaup personally, but the county needed a business person to move business along, and not a planning and zoning attorney.

Commissioner Howard Collett said purchase figures arrived at beffore wouldn’t amortize out in the required amount of time for the county.

Savage said they just need to be refigured since it already is amortizing out for a private business.

Hein interceded that he would like to get it worked out without an ownership change.

Bond said the county needed to come up with the $38,700 a month the original agreement called for then to get it done.

Savage said: “The county asked us to set this project up on another system. Change is fine, but don’t ask us to absorb the loss to bid on another system. Don’t you change horses in the middle of the stream, and ask the other guy to do all the swimming.”

Wetta said he agreed with Savage that the situation has gone on too long, and it’s time for a solution.

Hein asked Dalke if Hillsboro could agree to disposal rates in the $50 a ton range.

Dalke said she wouldn’t know until she went back to her city council for a determination.

Nichols and Clemmer said they would also need to consult governing boards.

Savage said they should understand that Marion County can’t be expected to pay the same rate as a neighboring county with four times as many peoople to spread the cost among.

Dalke said she is concerned because Marion County is poor-rating number 101 in per capita income among the 105 counties in Kansas because of its high elderly population.

She said, “We can’t pay more fees when we don’t have the money.”

Dalke and Hillsboro City Administrator Steven Garrett both came up with a figure of $66 a ton necessary to meet KC Development’s contractural needs based on 7,000 tons annually.

Collett said he was willing to go to some kind of assessment to come up with a solution. He noted that at the suggested rate, the county would be coming up with $28 a ton above the $38 a ton base rate.

Wetta said: “We may have to bite a pretty good bullet, but we’re not going to bite a cannonball. I’ll tell you that.”

Hein said the commission would try to have a solution next week.

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