The Butler County Landfill on Wednesday, May 1, hiked its per-ton dump rates by $30 for non-contracted residential, commercial, construction and demolition waste in the aftermath of the Butler County Board of Supervisors’ decision to deny an application for a 160-acre expansion.
Taking in about 550,000 tons of waste annually from about 20 state counties, as well as from Council Bluffs, Iowa, the 145-acre landfill is expected to reach its max capacity around 2024, according to Landfill District Manager Kelly Danielson. Now, the long-term future of the plant is up in the air after the board by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday, April 24, denied the Landfill’s most recent citing application. No-votes were cast from District 2 Supervisor Tony Krafka and District 5 Supervisor Scott Steager.
“This is a necessary step to overcome last week’s decision by the Butler County Board of Supervisors to block the future development of the Landfill,” Danielson said, through a released statement. “The county’s unfortunate decision places a tremendous premium on the limited remaining space for waste material disposal.”
Previously, household, construction and industrial waste was disposed for a $15 up-front expense followed by a charge of $44.50 per ton of waste for household and industrial, and $38.50 per ton for construction waste. Special waste – substances requiring a special permit – was disposed of for $25 up-front followed by a charge of $51.50 per ton.
A similar expansion application in 2015 was denied by the then-Butler County Board of Supervisors on two occasions because members deemed that two of the six specific criteria needed for expansion set by the state were not met.
As with the 2015 decision, the board once again made the determination that the first two required criteria weren’t met. In order to forward the landfill’s application to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), all of the following criteria had to be met with a majority ‘yes’ vote: Is the landfill necessary for the county? Is it designed to protect health, safety and overall welfare of its residents? It is compatible with the surrounding area? Can the site be operated in a safe manner? Are the traffic patterns to or from the landfill designed to minimize the impact on existing traffic flows and is the experience of the facility operator adequate?
The governing body cited issues with the overall necessity of the facility as well as some issues relating to health, safety and overall welfare of county residents.
The conversation regarding what will become of the landfill has been lengthy and controversial. In January, an approximately six-hour long public hearing was held inside of the David City Auditorium that presented a platform for those for and against the expansion to speak their minds.
Although the ultimate determination was made at the same location, the overall setting was drastically different this go round. Instead of 50 residents in attendance, not more than a dozen sat quietly in the audience waiting for a determination. The entire proceeding didn’t last longer than an hour-and-a-half.
The argument against the expansion was presented much as it has been in the past. Prior to a final decision being made, each criteria was discussed followed by a straw poll that would give the other board members an idea of where their colleagues stood before making one, final vote.
Regarding whether the landfill was necessary and whether it protected the overall health, safety and welfare of county residents, arguments presented by the board were very similar to ones previously heard. Spills from trucks carrying loads of trash along county roads, heavy truck traffic along U.S. Highway 92 and a handful of other landfill sites being available in surrounding counties were a few of the reasons listed.
District 3 Supervisor Scot Bauer cited access to other dump sites as one of the reasons why he doesn’t view the Butler County spot necessary.
“There are six other landfills that could we could go to …,” he said, highlighting Pheasant Point Landfill and the City of York Landfill. “There are regional places that several of the other towns could go to. So, I too, have a problem with the need.”
Regarding health, safety and overall resident welfare, District 1 Supervisor David Mach noted that he’s concerned about trash runoff making its way into creek systems. District 4 Supervisor Max Birkel added that he believes portions of waste are not being adequately covered, which he thinks can lead to problems.
“I know that I have been by that facility many times in the evening where I see uncovered daily trash, and I don’t think it’s getting covered daily,” Birkel said. “That is, (I believe), a human health issue. It should be covered.”
Currently, the landfill itself employs about 20 people, another 15-20 indirectly as truck drivers for other businesses or mechanics who work on maintaining facility equipment. The landfill’s annual payroll is about $900,000 and spends about $2.3 million –including tax dollars – in Butler County, as previously reported by The Banner-Press.
Should it close, this would be affected, Danielson said. He added that heading into the Wednesday determination he and his colleagues were optimistic that the expansion would receive approval. On Monday, April 22, Danielson said that during a specially held Board of Supervisors meeting that the governing body agreed to enter into a deal with the landfill. That agreement, Danielson said, guaranteed that the county would receive 75 cents per ton of waste, for up to 500,000-700,000 tons of waste annually, which equates to approximately $17-$18 million over a 25-year period.
In addition, the agreement stated that the landfill would cover expenses relating to paving a 5-mile stretch of County Road R from U.S. Highway 92 to the NE-12B Spur.
That host agreement is now null and void.
“They voted to sign it, and one (agreement) is not exclusive to the other – they are independent decisions,” Danielson said. “But it’s a little disheartening. We thought we came to some sort of understanding, but apparently not. I think we feel a little mislead.”
Now, landfill officials are deciding whether to fight the county’s decision by once again taking their case to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. But for now, area customers will have to keep shelling out additional dollars to dispose of their waste.
“The citizen rates in David City and other (county towns) are now going up quite a bit, which is really unfortunate but is something we are forced to do now," Danielson said.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.