Landfill will close

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Epperson Landfill is closing.

Officials from Republic Services, Inc. say the Williamstown site will close within the next few months.

Grant County officials, who were notified last week via a letter that the landfill was terminating its expansion plans, say Republic is using this as a tactic to force the county to sign a host agreement with them.

“We’re a business in the county, employing people, paying taxes, operating lawfully,” said John Lamanna, president of Republic. “We’ve been here a long time, have become active members of the community and contribute tens of thousands of dollars each year to local causes.”

Employees at the site were told last week that negotiations between Republic and Grant County officials were over because the county won’t sign a new host agreement. Employees were told they should start to look for other jobs.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s not a scare tactic. It’s real,” said an employee, who asked not to be identified.

The issue is that Republic wants the county to sign a 20-year host agreement with a 40-year capacity at the site.

The solid waste board, which serves as an advisory group to the fiscal court, says if Republic wants a 40-year capacity, then it must sign a 40-year host agreement.

“If they want 40 years of capacity, they should give the county 40 years of benefit,” said Dave Schmitt, chair of the solid waste board.

Republic and the county’s solid waste board signed an agreement in 2004, but opted to re-advertise and re-bid for a new host agreement in 2006.

The county contends that without a new contract, the 2004 agreement is still in effect. Republic contends that the county is stalling on signing the new contract and continues to make additional demands.

“We had many, many meetings with the county and long delays between each meeting, just trying to get back to where we were five years ago,” Lamanna said. “Meanwhile, the landfill is filling up. It takes a long time to get all permits and this was an excessive amount of time just to get a host agreement.”

Schmitt said the ultimate decision of whether the landfill closes is a decision of Republic, but the solid waste board wants to work out a solution.

“We’ve been negotiating non-stop for seven years and we’ve not made any new demands, but we have tried to protect the residents of the county,” Schmitt said.

Republic said the company has spent more than $2 million in its efforts to expand the landfill.

Ninety percent of the landfill has already been filled, said Republic. Without the expansion, Grant County residents may be forced to pay higher collection fees when the current hauling contract expires on June 30, 2011. When that contract expires, which is separate from the host agreement, the contract will be re-bid.

Bringing a pickup truck of trash to the landfill for free, which Republic now offers Grant County citizens, will also stop if the landfill closes. Many sports teams and organizations who are recipients of money from Republic Services would also suffer.

“The landfill has benefited us in some ways,” Schmitt said. “By employing a small number of local residents, using local vendors and giving money to various groups and we’re grateful for that, but it’s our (the solid waste board’s) job to look out for the best interest of the county, 30 to 40 years in the future.”