Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
St. Marys receives final payment in landfill lawsuit
County to institute new $20 fee to residents' tax bills
By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - The city has received the final payment from the county in settlement of the landfill lawsuit, which was concluded in 2007.
Council members and city officials agreed they were glad that chapter has been concluded. For the county's part, new legislation is expected today to enable monthly monitoring payments to continue.
The final payment of $376,744 to the city was received earlier this month paying the total of $2,066,744.
"We're happy to move on now," Mayor Greg Freewalt said at a recent finance committee meeting.
In September 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the city of St. Marys ended the ongoing lawsuit with Auglaize County Commissioners over who pays the bill for monitoring at the closed municipal landfill.
Since the ruling, the county has been making monthly payments to St. Marys and this final payment represents two months of payments.
"We bumped this up a month because (bookkeeper Pat Hill) is retiring and we wanted this taken care of before a new bookkeeper takes over," Commissioner John Bergman said this morning.
Commissioner Doug Spencer said the payments to St. Marys came from funds that were diverted from going into the permanent improvement (PI) fund for renovations at the county courthouse.
"We did not take any funds already in PI," Spencer emphasized.
Now that the lawsuit money is paid, the county's annual expense to satisfy Ohio EPA regulations for monitoring the landfill is expected to run about $105,000 for a while at least. However, no one can predict what fees are coming. What is known is that currently the EPA says the monitoring must continue for 30 years after closing, which would be 2028.
Today, the commissioners will vote on a proposal establishing a revenue stream for the solid waste department to be able to pay the monitoring cost. The proposal has gone through six public meetings and the expectation is that it will be enacted with today's vote.
The proposal sets up a $20 annual fee to all residential and agriculture dwellings that will show up on tax bills each July.
In a nutshell, the lawsuit centered around who is responsible for satisfying the Ohio EPA's requirement that monitoring of the landfill must continue for 30 years after its closure in 1998. During the past five-plus years, the cost of monitoring, which has been paid by the city, has been in excess of $700,000.
City estimates are that the monitoring program could exceed $4.8 million over the course of the EPA-required time period.
Located 2 miles north of the city, the landfill is owned by the city; however, both the city and the county used the landfill until it closed.
In 1988 the county agreed to monitor the landfill, agreeing "to undertake complete responsibility for all environmental monitoring required ... both prior to and subsequent to closure of the site," according to the written opinion of the Third District court. The contract was set up for a 12-year period, and in 2000, the county informed the city it would no longer perform the monitoring.
One lawsuit and a long list of counterclaims and cross motions ensued over the next five years, with the final verdict being that the county was responsible for the landfill, not the city.