A Plankinton sanitation company’s request to pay a prorated fee to haul garbage to Mitchell’s landfill has been denied by the Mitchell City Council.
L&L Sanitation was seeking to haul up to 8 tons of trash per month to the Mitchell Regional Landfill at a rate of $48 per ton, which is the same rate local and area sanitation companies in the city’s landfill jurisdiction boundaries. But the impact that the prorated fee and added tonnage of trash could have on the overall life expectancy of the city’s landfill prompted the Mitchell City Council to deny lowering the rate for the Plankinton-based sanitation company in 5-1 vote during Monday’s meeting.
“My concern is that how these trash cells are filling up all the time and how much they cost to build new ones. Why would we allow someone else to bring other towns' garbage into our city’s landfill at a cheaper price?” said Council President Kevin McCardle. “We should be focused on taking care of our own people. We hear about how the landfill is going to be filled up in said amount of years.”
With the council’s decision to deny lowering the fee for L&L Sanitation, the company will have to pay the same $68 per ton rate that every sanitation business that’s deemed out of jurisdiction boundaries pays to haul waste to Mitchell’s landfill.
The city’s landfill, located about 4 miles south of Mitchell, is about 15 years into the expected 130-year life expectancy. The city calculates the life expectancy based on the height of the trash cells that fill up over time.
Trash cells are designated areas the city uses to compact the garbage at the landfill. Each cell has different height limitations ranging from 30 to 40 feet, and when they're reached, city crews move onto the next cell, which is a costly endeavor. The city recently began creating a new trash cell that cost a little over $1 million.
According to Street and Sanitation Supervisor Kevin Roth, 33 surrounding area communities within the jurisdiction lines use Mitchell’s landfill. While Roth said the 8 tons that L&L Sanitation was seeking to haul to the landfill was fairly minimal, he noted it could make it easier and cheaper for the company to haul over the amount of 8 tons per month. As part of the request, the company would be subject to pay the $68 per ton out-of-jurisdiction fee for anything over 8 tons.
“Here is the downfall, it will eat up our landfill quicker. It’s a small amount, but what happens if it progresses out to be 20 tons per month,” Roth said.
Alan Birmeier, owner of L&L Sanitation, said his reasoning behind the request is due to the growth the company has experienced, along with providing a better rate for a chicken plant he collects waste from in the Plankinton area about 25 miles west of Mitchell.
“I want to get that rate and pass that onto my customer and be a good hauler for them. I’m getting more interest from people east of Highway 281,” he said.
While Birmeier’s request asked to haul 8 tons of trash per month to Mitchell, he said the monthly tonnage will “probably be less” than that. As of now, Birmeier hauls about 85 tons of trash per month to the Tri-State landfill, located in Pukwana, west of Plankinton.
“It’s not going to be an 8 tons a month set deal. It’s going to probably be less. It will never be more than that,” he said, noting the trash he would haul to Mitchell’s landfill would come from the chicken and egg processing plant called National Foods in the Plankinton area.
‘Gray’ jurisdiction lines complicate landfill use
Public Works Director Joe Schroeder called the request a “unique situation” since he said there are some local sanitation companies that haul trash to Mitchell’s landfill from outside the city’s jurisdiction.
“We don’t necessarily police that,” Schroeder said. “We don’t see there being a lot of tonnage hauled to our landfill from outside the jurisdiction.”
However, Schroeder and Roth explained the complexity of the jurisdiction lines for landfills.
“The explanation I received from the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) is that they are basically unwritten guidelines of how you follow your jurisdictions,” Schroeder said, noting Aurora County is about 2.5 miles away from the city’s jurisdiction line.
Roth said the jurisdiction lines were determined by a landfill membership board, adding that the lines are “really gray.”
For Councilman John Doescher, giving an out-of-jurisdiction sanitation company a break didn't make sense, considering the recent money and time spent on improving the landfill and life expectancy.
City Attorney Justin Johnson noted the city’s landfill operates on a permit from the Davison County Commission, which has a condition that says the city “run the rate change of this nature” by the county commissioners.
Roth reached out to the Davison County commissioners about the rate change requested, but he said "they didn't want anything to do with the landfill."
“My understanding is that Davison County doesn’t want anything to do with our landfill,” Roth said, noting the request is typically one that would be handled by the county commissioners, not solely the Mitchell City Council. “They are unwilling to voice any kind of yes or no to what we do.”