ATLANTA -Each fiscal year, the counties that comprise the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority receive a monetary allocation for financial commitments associated with closing the landfill, should it be forced to close.
In past years the allocations were $30,000, but thanks to a strong fund equity and operating reserve the commissioners voted to bump the amount to $50,000 in 2012.
Alpena County Commissioner Cam Habermehl said some money is set aside to cover the cost of care at the landfill after its closure, but not enough. He said the allocation is an act of good faith from the landfill for the risk and liabilities the counties have underneath them.
"The counties are responsible for the cost of the landfill over and above what the perpetual care fund has. Right now we don't have the money to close it, and if something were to happen where there was a problem, the counties are responsible to pay over and above what the fund has," Habermehl said. "It is the good faith and credit of the county which allows us to keep the landfill running. This money each year just sort of helps offset the potential cost a little bit."
In 2011 the landfill paid off a large amount of debt incurred for the construction of a new cell, built a gas collection system, and continued to move forward with a groundwater drainage system. If the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issues the landfill a groundwater discharge permit, it would save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
It is these potential savings that made the commissioners comfortable in increasing the allocations. Alpena Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said there is more than $300,000 in fund equity and another $770,000 in operating reserves. He said the landfill is in good shape financially.
"Right now we have our general fund back up to $1.3 million and this would be paid out in September, so we would have nine months of revenue, and we think we have everything budgeted for," VanWomer said. "However, we don't have our permit yet, but if we do it is really going to help even more in cutting expenses. We figured it would be a good gesture to increase it for all three counties."
Should things change, VanWormer said another vote could be taken, and the amount of money distributed to the counties could be lowered once again.
"It could change it if we wanted to because of a change in the financial situation," he said. "Financially right now this amount works even if we get denied the permit, but if we thought a change needed to be made again, we could do that."
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Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.