Drop in business at landfill creating financial dilemma for East Carbon City Council
The main topic of conversation at the East Carbon City Council meeting on Tuesday was about the down turn at the East Carbon Development Corporation landfill.
"All I have to say is that New York and Chicago have nothing over on Utah when it comes to crooked politics," said Mayor Dale Andrews. "It appears to me that a number of former legislators have lined their pockets in this matter."
The mayor's comments came in reaction to a Utah Senate resolution allowing a new municipal waste landfill to open in Tooele County.
Operated by ECDC parent company Allied Waste, the facility will start taking most of the municipal waste that the East Carbon site has been receiving for more than a decade.
Based on the city's anticipated tippage fees from ECDC, East Carbon was loaned millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements.
"We were told originally that the landfill would bring the city a million dollars a year for many years," stated Andrews. "But there has only been one year where we actually realized that much money."
ECDC will continue to be a point of delivery for out-of-state industrial waste, so the facility will remain open.
But the number of tons deposited at the local landfill site will drop significantly.
"I have been talking with the governor's office and the officials have been very supportive and said they would help where they can," noted Andrews. "We are asking that they at least keep other landfills from taking the out-of-state industrial waste."
East Carbon resident Jim Robertson questioned the legislative action.
"You know, when they originally wanted to do this, no one in the state wanted anything to do with it," pointed out Robertson. "It took two years to get the permits to even get started. Now it seems they can do it overnight. Now they all want a piece of it because they have seen it works. Despite our risk and our situation, we are getting no protection from the state. "
Most citizens in attendance at the city council meeting voiced opposition to the Tooele landfill resolution.
"When we got the loans for the infrastructure improvements, loan officials looked at our income and agreed that it would be way more than enough to carry the bonds," commented Councilmember Dave Maggio. "They made it so easy."
The city felt Carbon County and local legislators knew about the situation long ago.
"This apparently started more than two years ago and it was only by chance that we found out about it," said Andrews. "We don't seem to have very good communications with our representatives or the county."
Senator Mike Dmitrich had apparently been in touch with the city about the matter during the 2005 legislative session.
At the council meeting, Andrews read an e-mail from Dmitrich indicating that the senator had not been successful in derailing the resolution. The mayor said Dmitrich voted for the resolution.
"No matter what had been done, East Carbon would have been left out of the mix for municipal garbage disposal," explained Dmitrich in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. "The fact is, even if the Tooele landfill had not been approved, the Wasatch Front would have soon been shipping its trash to the Goshute Indian Reservation landfill. There are not regulations there and I would rather have SITLA get the tippage fees than have all the money go there."
The Wasatch Regional Solid Waste Management Corporation's facility will be built on lands administered by the state agency and 75 cents per ton will be assessed for garbage dumped at the site.
However Andrews says that the amount of money SITLA will make is not what they think it will be.
"They were talking about that this resolution would raise $80 million for education in the state in a short period of time," indicated Andrews. "But at the rate of 57 cents per ton they may raise that much money over the life of the landfill, but they won't do it in a couple of years."
Dmitrich also defended his vote on the resolution by saying that by supporting the new landfill he had received assurances from Allied Waste Systems that they would do everything in their power to make sure East Carbon would get all out of state non-hazardous industrial waste. He also said that if any layoffs happen at ECDC, people that lose their jobs will be offered positions at the new landfill in Tooele County.
Andrews was also upset about the situation within the legislature concerning the resolution. He said that former state legislators, acting as lobbyists, had pushed the resolution, sponsored by Senator Ron Allen of Tooele, through the Senate and that all those individuals had interests in the Wasatch Regional Solid Waste Management Corporation, One of the partners in the company, while not a former representative, is also an lobbyist for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, an organization East Carbon belongs too.
Andrews also blamed the railroad which he said "doesn't give a damn" about what it's shipping rates do to cities. The comments about the railroad were based on the fact that the railroad charges about the same to ship industrial waste from California as they do to bring municipal garbage to ECDC from Salt Lake. But Dmitrich said it had to do with more than just shipping rates.
"I think a bigger factor was the turn around time on the rail cars," he said. "I think the railroad would have worked with ECDC better if they had been able to send back rail cars that were needed faster."
Representative Brad King (district 69) said he only knew about the resolution and the potential for the problem just before the beginning of this years session.
"I assumed they (East Carbon) knew about it," he said in a phone interview on Wednesday morning. "I was told about it by another legislator and began working on the problem from the first day I found out."
King said that when the resolution came to the house side of the legislature he didn't vote on it because he was not present on the floor at the time.
As for communication with the county, Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich said on Wednesday that he wasn't aware of the problem with ECDC until about 10 days ago.
"I only found out about it when Kirk Trease (manager of the ECDC operation for Allied Waste) came to talk to us about it," he said on the phone. "This decision only has to do with the legislature and it was inside stuff there that made it happen. We knew no more than anyone else. As for communication, if any city official in the county wants to talk with us we are only a phone call away."
There has been talk of working out the debt of the city (various figures of what is owed by East Carbon say it is between $6-8 million) to the state, but so far little has been concluded.
"I pulled together a meeting with Ed Alter (state treasurer) and some others on this situation and he said the state can't forgive the debt East Carbon owes," said Dmitrich. "I am still working on some other ways to reduce or eliminate some of what they owe so it will be more affordable for them."
The discussion at the council meeting on the matter ended when one woman in the audience asked what will happen if the city can't renegotiate their bond payments or other ways can't be found to make good on the debts.
"No one knows. The state certainly can't come up here and dig up all the water and sewer lines to get their money back. We just don't know," said Andrews.
But Milovich said he knows what could happen.
"East Carbon's elected officials were the ones that took on this debt," he said. "We didn't have anything to do with that. But if the city goes into default the county will have to take it over. It will fall on us to handle it."