Goal of proposal is cutting property tax assessment

Last updated: March 05. 2014 12:02PM - 1258 Views
By - emowen@civitasmedia.com

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An issue which has always been a touchy subject for some area residents is back at the forefront of the county’s work to cut costs for Preble residents.

On Monday, Feb. 24, Preble County Commissioners met with Preble County Sanitary Engineer Randy Gilbert to discuss a proposed expansion of the current county landfill.

Gilbert said his presentation was in response to a direction made by the board in recent years, with the primary goal of lowering tipping fees at the facility, decreasing the landfill property tax assessment currently paid by property owners in Preble County, and improve efficiency at the landfill facility.

“We’ve made some improvements,” Gilbert said during the recorded meeting. “But we have a long way to go.” He noted, EPA requirements continue to grow.

“It’s a continuous improvement situation,” he said.

“We knew the life of the PTI (permit to install) was coming to its end and we needed to expand,” David Wesler said during the meeting. Wesler noted, he agreed out of county waste was needed to bring in more revenue and help bring down the assessment for residents.

The only real options to increase landfill revenue are uncontrollable: bring in more industry and more residents to generate more waste, Gilbert said.

What can be controlled, he said, is what is done with the landfill, and allowing new waste in from outside the county.

According to a summary of Gilbert’s presentation:

“The Preble County Commissioners, Edwin Brubaker, Leonard Duke, and Joe Pierson, along with Preble County Engineer, Kenneth Yost, developed the Preble County Sanitary Landfill in 1970.

“Preble County received their permit from the Ohio Department of Health on September 14, 1970. The Preble County Sanitary Landfill began operations in 1971, receiving 16,000 tons of waste annually and using 3.0 acres of land per year in an unlined trench fill operation. In 2007, over 35 years later, Preble County Sanitary Landfill received 42,009 tons of waste. This was the peak of a long steadily increasing growth curve. In 2008, a decline in waste received began due to a slowing economy combined with the beginnings of the national push to reduce packaging. “By 2012, waste receipts at the landfill had declined to 32,070 tons per year. The resulting decrease in revenue coupled with increasing costs resulted in serious financial issues for the landfill management.

“Initially major expenditures were deferred, equipment repair delayed and replacement schedules extended, along with depleting the small cash reserve that they had built up. By 2011, it became apparent that the downward trend was not going to be reversing and a rate increase was needed to survive.

“On October 5, 2011, the Preble County Commission passed Resolution #579-11-153, which raised the tipping fee from $31.25/ton to $40/ton and increased the parcel tax assessment from

$65.20 to $94.34 per year.

“This provided a much-needed influx of cash necessary to continue operations at the landfill in compliance with the permit. The Commission also decided that it was time to hire a full time Sanitary Engineer to manage the landfill and reduce the engineering consulting fees.

“On Nov. 7, 2011, the first full time Sanitary Engineer was employed by Preble County.

“The commission has expressed a desire to develop alternatives proposals to reduce the property assessment, look for new sources of revenue, while at the same time improving efficiency of operations at the landfill. The expressed desire is that the landfill be operated as much like a self-sufficient enterprise as permissible within the constraints of county government.

“The only practical option to meet these goals would be to eliminate the prohibition of out-of-county waste and begin marketing the landfill as a valuable asset in the community. This option is not without its own challenges; the life span of the landfill and public perception. Public concerns may be the most difficult to address in light of the results from the 2003 Landfill Advisory Committee discussions where a strong opinion developed that the landfill should be for County use only.

“The current 2014 Landfill budget of $3,669,000 is supported by projected revenues of $3,775,922. ($1,160,000 from tipping fees, $1,934,122.34 from the property tax assessment, a cash carry-over of $ 500,000, and miscellaneous funding $ 181,799.80.

“The county owns sufficient property (438 acres) to expand the landfill to have a life of over 113 years at a maximum daily rate of fill of 500 tons/day. This would involve three expansion phases, first to the west into the existing borrow area, south as a separate cell in the field, and then filling the valley between the existing footprint and the south expansion. By increasing the tonnage to the landfill from the existing average 110 tons/day to something between 400 to 500 tons/day revenues would increase in excess of $1,000,000 which could be utilized to offset a portion of the Property Tax Assessment.

“Montgomery County and Rumpke have been approached to inquire as to the possibility of their entities sending out-of-county waste to the landfill. Rumpke currently transports 200 tons/day from their Greenville transfer facility to their Colerain landfill. These trucks drive past the Preble County Sanitary Landfill gates every day.

“Both Rumpke and Montgomery County would consider utilizing the Preble County landfill for disposal if the price is cost effective. Both entities would receive the benefit of substantially shorter round trips, less fuel usage, and require fewer drivers and equipment due to the shorter cycle times involved.

“Currently the landfill is at a decision point for this expansion. To expand west means that a portion of the existing berm located to the west would need to be relocated. This results in losing approximately 2 years of the constructed 3.5 years of constructed volume at current rates of fill.

“It will require approximately 1.5 years to gain approval for the expansion permit to install (PTI). It will also require 12 to 18 months to complete the scale relocation project which includes the maintenance and administrative offices.

“Construction of the storm water confluence and cell 2C cannot begin until the scale is relocated. It is anticipated that it will take two years to construct cell 2C. The scale relocation project is required regardless of the decision to expand and increase waste received.

“However, large volumes of additional waste cannot be accepted without the new scales. Semi-trailer loads of waste, such as the Rumpke transfer loads from Greenville, cannot be accepted without new scales.”

Wesler questioned the need for an administrative building, and proposed using the current house located on the facility property, and building a new building after revenues are seen to increase. Gilbert’s proposal is for an administrative building that serves dual duty as a scale house.

Currently, the scale operator is also the clerical/administrative employee for the landfill, which is why he proposed one building for those duties.

When an out-of-county company, Allied Waste, proposed leasing the landfill and privatizing the operation in 2003, the community outcry called for keeping the landfill for Preble County waste only.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, several residents hearkened back to the arguments of over a decade ago.

New Paris resident Jeff Golden reminded the board of the opposition which rose against the landfill expansion issue in the past. He said he agreed that some outside tonnage was needed to help lower the cost, but noted, he didn’t believe all the opposition was totally against taking outside tonnage.

Gasper Township resident and trustee Eric White said as a resident, he “would fight tooth and nail against expansion to the south.”

“We’re always going to have the assessment,” he said. “It’s a bad idea to expand.”

White questioned the issue of flow control, which is in place to keep Preble County waste from being hauled to landfills outside the county.

Flow control will be left in place, according to Gilbert and the commission.

White warned officials about embarking on their discussions with Rumpke Waste, and the pricing they will expect. “Rumpke will play hardball with you,” White said of the large company.

White and others expressed concern for the potential to pollute Lake Lakengren, the lake at Woodland Trails Boy Scout Camp, and the Village of Camden.

According to Gilbert, a 10-acre wetland area will always have to be maintained for the landfill property.

Gasper Township resident Vaughn Call spoke in opposition of any expansion or other increases at the landfill, telling them to just “close it.”

“Why would you want to make it a bigger mess than it already is?” Call asked. “Create a transfer station and close the landfill.” He told officials to work on the recycling program instead of having to reclaim it from the landfill, where trash is commingled. “The recycling program is not good,” he commented.

Both Gilbert and commissioners disagreed, noting the recycling program is active. Gilbert also noted, cost to close the landfill would be $10 million.

“There’ll be a fight,” Call told officials of the outcry he expects about a landfill expansion project.

The complete report is available at www.prebco.org. Click on the link that reads “LANDFILL PLAN FOR EXPANSION OF WASTE RECIPIENTS.

A timeline is included in the body of the report which shows the various elements involved.

Gilbert has proposed eliminating the exclusion of outside waste and allowing what can be taken without the necessary new equipment to increase tonnage immediately.

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