Allegations, accusations fly at East Carbon council
Speaking on behalf of an unnamed group of citizens, area resident Robert Warren leveled a laundry list of requests and accusations against East Carbon City officials at Tuesday night's council session. Warren was placed on the evening's agenda, in front of a packed council chamber, to discuss the East Carbon Development Corporation's (ECDC) permit application which would allow for the dumping of certain amounts of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated material in the landfill.
Before addressing the issue of PCBs, Warren asked that council member David Avery recuse himself from all issues dealing with Utah American Energy and the Westridge Mine because of his employment there. Warren also asked that newly-seated council member David Maggio recuse himself from matters dealing with ECDC due to his former employment at the facility.
While Avery did not comment concerning Warren's request, Maggio did address the statement.
"I worked at ECDC for five years and I'm not married to ECDC. I'm married to Shelly Maggio, she's my wife," explained councilmember Maggio. "I'm retired, I'm a retired coal miner, I draw my pension from the United Mineworkers not ECDC. If you think that I'm in their pocket, you are wrong. The only thing I'm looking at, the only thing I'm concerned with is the well being of this city."
While Warren had many issues with the way the council has handled ECDC's permit application, his accusations continually returned to a statement that the city was not working for its citizens.
"What I'm asking you, is to do the job we hired you to do and that is to represent the people, to keep us safe and away from harm," said Warren. "Follow the instructions that we are giving you. I commend you for reaching out to pay our debt, but along with that I condemn you for reaching out to the same people who caused that debt and ask that you don't. You were hired to protect us and look out for our interests and you forgot who you were working for. You have become self-serving spenders, holding your secret meeting and parties behind closed doors, avoiding the opinions and wishes of those you work for, the people. The time has come to fire a chronically absent Mayor and replace all of you with a new city administration."
While city officials addressed all of Warren's concerns and requests, Mayor Orlando LaFontaine rebutted immediately.
"I want to be clear so everyone knows, I'm a part time mayor here. I get $400 a month and I'm a part time mayor and that's it," said LaFontaine. "Anybody willing to take this on full time, please put your name in, I would be more than happy to... I've done this way too long, way too long. I would be more than happy to step aside and spend more time with my family and do other things."
The mayor then defended the council's position.
"Anyone who takes the oath to sit up here takes on a great amount of responsibility," he continued. "I have had council members that I disagree with greatly, but their opinion are always respected. But I know that a council member would never come up here and do something to jeopardize the safety of this town's residents."
Former council member Andy Urbanik also discussed the council's attitude toward safety.
"While I was on this council safety was always number one," he said. "We spent money we didn't have to take care of public safety in this town. And during my whole tenure, there were never any secret or closed door sessions. Our attorney was always present to make sure we walked a straight line during closed executive sessions."
New council member also Barbara Robinett continued the line of thought.
"I ran for this position because I care about the safety of this town, the well being of our citizens. I resent the fact that Mr. Warren says we have had secret meetings," commented Robinett.
Those sitting on the council also took umbrage with Warren's contention that ECDC had caused the city's debt.
According to the sitting administration, East Carbon City took out loans, based on the landfill's tippage fees, in order to renovate the municipality's roads, water and sewer lines and to install natural gas service. When ECDC lost a large portion of its contracts, the tippage fees decreased and the city began to have a difficult time making their loan payments. While officials did have to work to restructure the town's loans, they were adamant about the fact that funds garnered from ECDC had paid for every cent of the loan payments.
While the council and citizens remain at odds over the permitting at ECDC, the final word concerning any permit change lies in the hands of state and federal permitting bodies, not the East Carbon City Council.
"The state reported during a public hearing that this council had nothing to do with or vote on concerning the permitting at ECDC," continued Robinett. "I was told by the state and the EPA, 'This is our decision,' not the council's but their own. They are the ones you need to contact if you have a problem with this. I also heard the state say that they are requiring ECDC to put up a bond so that if something ever comes back against ECDC they have that bond."
The state and federal EPA will continue to take public comments through Jan. 17 before making their decision concerning ECDC's permit.
As for the council's official actions concerning ECDC on Tuesday night, local officials did vote to formally ask the state and EPA to include Greenleaf America's recommendations concerning the acceptance of ECDC's permit. East Carbon contracted with Greenleaf to review ECDC's plans to transport and dump PCB material.
Before closing discussions concerning ECDC's permit application, Landfill Administrator Kirk Treece addressed the council to clarify some of the points of contention raised during the meeting. According to Treese, ECDC has to put up a performance bond for closure, meaning that every acre developed must have funds secured for closing, regardless of ECDC's situation at that time. Additionally, Treese commented that ECDC has had a letter from the state, which reported that the landfill could accept PCB material below 50 parts per million since 2002. However, ECDC did not feel that there was a job out there big enough to justify the modifications which would come with accepting this material.
"We keep trying to differentiate what ECDC is now, with what we will be when we are ECDC with a TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) cell. We are a non-hazardous landfill and with the TSCA cell we will still be a non-hazardous landfill," explained Treese. "Some people try to equate TSCA material and call it hazardous material, TSCA is in its own clarification. If the state of Utah and the EPA did not allow us to permit we would not be going through this whole process today. Any landfill in the state of Utah could be doing this. All they need to do is have the right parameters and the right permit and they could apply for their own TSCA cell."
Following the public and ECDC comments, East Carbon Attorney Jeremy Humes approached the officials to discuss current contract negotiations concerning an increase in tippage fees based on ECDC bringing in PCB materials.
According to Humes, ECDC original offer was to have their fee raised from $1 per ton to $1.50 per ton starting now. Humes reported that the city was looking to reply to that offer with a specific 25 cent increase on all PCB materials with a stepped increase at three, five, seven and nine years. Additionally, ECDC would assist in mitigating the current costs of East Carbon's transfer station. In going through discussions, the parties agreed to further discuss the fees before formally voting on any motion.