When an ice storm damaged thousands of area trees in late 2008, the Allen County Solid Waste Management District pledged $350,000 to help clean up the mess. But Director Tony Burrus has this advice for officials expecting that kind of help in the wake of two severe storms in less than a week:
“We’ve heard the city would like something, but we’re like everyone else: Our revenue is down,” Burrus said, noting that so-called “tipping fees” imposed for using the local landfill generate about $1.08 million per year, or about $200,000 less than in 2008. Most of that goes to pay for a variety of environmental and recycling programs, and Burrus said the fees have also paid for a $700,000 wood-chipping machine that has been working overtime this week and for a $375,000 building in which to store it.
Although the District has about $2.4 million in investments that will mature through 2014, it has just $110,000 in ready cash, Burrus said – barely enough to make a dent Fort Wayne’s expected costs, let alone expenses countywide.
In 2008, its board approved $250,000 for Fort Wayne and later authorized the payment of up to $100,000 more for other cities and towns.
Former City Councilwoman Liz Brown, who served on the District’s board in 2008, suggested in a letter to the editor in Friday’s News-Sentinel that “the mayor and City Council members recall how we handled the ice storm clean up . . . If these (tipping fees) are used to assist neighborhoods throughout the county and to avoid more waste going into our landfill, then we are getting back the dollars we all pay into the fund.”
The District makes the material it shreds available to the public as mulch.
The fee is $2.50 per ton of out-of-county waste and $1.35 per ton for Allen County waste, much of it generated by the city’s garbage contract. The $2.50 represents the maximum fee allowable, and Burrus questioned whether county residents should bear higher burden.
City spokesman Frank Suarez said no official funding request has been submitted. “I don’t believe there’s even been a lot of discussion,” he added.
“We’re not trying to impede anything,” Burrus said. “But this storm was worse than in 2008. We have to be prepared for other problems and take care of the entire county.”
The District’s Board and County Council would have to approve any funding request, Burrus said.