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Landfill dumping down, taxpayers might pay

January 21, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Washington County taxpayers could be left holding the bag if the amount of garbage dumped by trash haulers at county landfills doesn't increase, according to information given to the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday.

County taxpayers might have to kick in nearly $5 million through the year 2003 to cover operating and capital budget shortfalls associated with the county landfills, Washington County Finance Director Debra Bastian said.

The amount of garbage dumped by trash haulers at the Resh landfill is expected to drop to 56,000 tons this year, less than the 77,000 tons that had been projected.

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If tonnage does not increase, the county would have to start chipping in money from the general fund to pay for operating deficits starting in 2001. In 2003, it would cost the county more than $1 million to cover an operating deficit, Bastian projected.

That would be in addition to a plan to transfer $3.3 million from the general fund from 1998 through 2000 to pay for landfill capital improvements.

Bastian told the County Commissioners that the projection is a "worst-case scenario." In addition to assuming flat dumping levels, it assumes that dumping fees won't increase.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said the amount of garbage dumped has decreased because garbage haulers are taking trash to landfills outside the county.

Rohrer said if the county is forced out of the landfill business, residents could see their costs for garbage pickup soar.

"Your water and sewer rates are going to pale compared to what you are going to pay for solid waste," he said.

The county is in a bind because officials expect to pay more than $20 million in capital costs in the next six years, largely due to plans to close the Resh Road landfill and open the adjacent Lund landfill.

Reports indicate it might be necessary for the county to float $14.2 million in bonds between this fiscal year and 2003 to pay capital costs.

The general fund capital improvement program would chip in $3.3 million, reserves would pay $1.7 million of the cost, and tipping fees would add $1.4 million.

Payments on the total solid waste debt, at $550,216 this year, are expected to reach $1.8 million in 2003.

Bastian said it might be possible to increase tonnage at the landfill by dividing the county into different regions or franchises and bidding out waste hauling contracts for the different regions. The low bidder in each area would have to sign a contract agreeing to take the waste to county landfills, she said.

On the bright side, the lower tonnage could extend the life of county landfills and delay future expansions, officials said.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said other opportunities for revenue, such as renting some of the unused land at the landfill site to businesses until the land is needed for landfill space, should be checked out.

Commissioner Jim Wade said he was in favor of requiring haulers to bring trash to the landfill.

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