Following a lengthy discussion, Elkins City Council made the decision Thursday to close the Elkins Landfill. The decision did not come without discussion with three council members voting against the closure.
Councilman and Sanitation/Landfill Committee Chair Carman Metheny, 3rd Ward, made a motion to close the landfill when the current garbage cell is full and Councilwoman Nanci-Bross Fregonara, 4th Ward, seconded the measure. Current estimates show the garbage cell will be full by late summer.
Before opening the measure to discussion to council members, Mayor Duke Talbott made a recommendation to council.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
Residents take items to the Elkins Landfill on Wednesday for the monthly free drop-off day. Elkins City Council voted on Thursday to close the facility.
"There has been a great deal of research and study that has gone into what should be done with the landfill," he said. "Originally, I was like many others who thought it was imperative that we keep the landfill open because we could control it for the benefit if our citizens. It has become increasingly apparent that we have no control over the landfill at the present time and we will see sky rocketing costs to keep it open."
In his recommendation, Talbott said it is essential the city provide effective and cost efficient garbage removal service to Elkins residents. Talbott recommended a three-part approach to providing the service which include:
- The landfill be closed and garbage be delivered to a nearby transfer station.
- An effective and efficient recycling program be implemented as soon as possible to reduce the amount of trash hauled to a transfer station.
-Implementing a policy that limits the amount of trash any individual household can set out for garbage pick-up.
"Implementation of these measures will give us a great deal more control than we have over the trash removal system currently in place and it should be possible to contain costs so that the citizens will not be overly burdened in paying for this service," Talbott said.
Discussion between council members began when Councilman Bob Woolwine, 1st Ward, asked what will happen with the employees at the landfill. Metheny said the four employees would be absorbed into other city departments once closure is complete at the landfill. Metheny estimated that there will be work at the landfill for the next two years.
"One of the reasons I am opposed to closing it is because we don't have hard numbers on how much it would cost to close it," Councilman Mark Scott, 3rd Ward, said. "It will cost $3.3 million to keep it open."
Scott said landfills across the state are struggling and asking the state and federal government for money.
"There is money available," he said. "We can save money by having a leachate treatment facility."
Scott said if the city would build a leachate treatment facility it would reduce costs at the landfill and possibly help make it profitable.
"If we close and cover the landfill the estimated amount of leachate is 30 percent of what we have now," Metheny said. "The plant is meant to treat that. If we treat all of it (leachate) the plant would have to be double or triple of what we have talked about."
Councilman Tom Hensil, 2nd Ward, said one of the problems at the landfill is that the sanitation fund could not pay its tipping fees to the landfill.
"If we would have had rates to pay them, the landfill would not be in the shape it is," Hensil said. "
Scott said he believed if the city would treat the leachate and would give the city's roll-off dumpster pick-up to the private sector, it could help keep the landfill open.
"We approached the leading company in West Virginia that does this for a living," Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said. "We asked if they would like it (the landfill) as a gift and they said it was too small, it would never make a profit and it was a liability."
Scott said closing the landfill is not wrong, but he wanted more time to study the options.
"Take half of the trash to another landfill," he said. "It will give us six more months of space. We can take three months and see if we can figure something out."
Metheny said of the 100 acres at the landfill only 30 are permitted to house garbage and to get the rest permitted would be difficult because "every landfill in the state will protest."
Councilwoman Marilynn Cuonzo said for the landfill to work it needs to collect more trash.
"We should not be thinking about making trash," she said. "We should be thinking about recycling. Let's think more about what we can do to be more progressive."
Scott asked his fellow councilmembers if everyone would be more comfortable if there was more time and if they knew how much closer was going to cost.
"Having half of the garbage taken somewhere else will give us more time," Scott said.
Pingley responded, "Yeah, it will give us more time to lose money."
A roll call vote was called for and Scott, Hensil and Woolwine voted against closing the landfill. Councilman Rob Beckwith, 1st Ward, was not present during the meeting.
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