CHARLESTON - Great strides have been made on House Bill 4339, which could lift the heavy financial burden of closing the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill.
Del. Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, was the lead sponsor on the bill. The legislation could ensure that moneys from the Solid Waste Authority Closure Cost Assistance Fund would be available to facilitate the closure of the Elkins-Randolph County and the Webster County landfills.
Other sponsors on the bill are Del. William Hartman, D-Randolph; Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton; Del. Tim Manchin, D-Marion; Del. Harry Keith White, D-Mingo; Del. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; and Del. Dana Lynch, D-Webster.
Campbell said HB 4339 passed unanimously in the House Judiciary and Financial committees, as well as on the House floor. The bill has moved to the Senate, where it will pass through two committees before a vote in the full Senate.
Campbell said the reason for the bill is that the deadline for applications for assistance already passed and Elkins did not make application. That deadline was in 2000. The Elkins-Randolph County Landfill was closed in Sept. 2011. If the bill passes and Elkins makes application for the estimated $8.6 million to close and cap the landfill, it would be from the Solid Waste Authority Closure Cost Assistance Fund and would be at no cost to the state.
"That fund was created by landfills paying into the fund," Campbell noted.
Campbell began to work on House Bill 4339 after she was contacted about the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill by Elkins Mayor Van Broughton and City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith.
"After I spoke with them, I talked to the DEP and we discussed the issue," Campbell said. "The DEP looked into the status of the landfill to see if they could be eligible. Once I found out they could be eligible, I worked with the DEP for the language and crafting of the bill."
Smith said she had been searching for two years for a way to get funding for the closing of the landfill.
"I knew we would have to find outside funding for the $8.6 million," Smith said. "I made about 14 phone calls before I found someone who would help me understand what we needed to do to put a change into motion. Once I found out what we needed to, Mayor Broughton and I contacted Denise Campbell."
Smith said the great thing about the bill is if it passes, the city can make application for the funds, taking the burden from the residents of Elkins.
Broughton said he is very happy for the bill and the prospect of being able to close the landfill. He said one of his platforms when running for mayor was to do all he could to resolve the landfill issue.
"I am very happy we are making progress toward getting this resolved," Broughton said.
"It shows by working together and being persistent, you can accomplish anything," Broughton said. "We thought this was a priority, we looked into it and are trying to take care of this to the best of our ability."
Broughton said he wanted to thank Campbell and Smith for their work on getting the bill to this point.
"I am thankful Denise Campbell kept the lines of communications open," Broughton said. "We sent emails, made phone calls and worked to make sure all questions were answered and worked hard. We are excited at the possibility of getting this money to close the landfill."
Currently, Elkins residents are paying approximately $333,700 in annual operating costs and $262,274 in outstanding debt because of the landfill. The landfill has not generated any revenue since its closure. In July 2013, Elkins City Council voted to raise the Elkins Sanitation rates by 32 percent to keep the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill afloat.
Carman Metheny, chairman of the Elkins Landfill Committee, said if the bill passes, he will be very happy.
"The more than $8 million to close the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill would be a godsend," Metheny said. "It would give the city of Elkins the ability to close the landfill and relieve the residents and the city of a great deal of debt. It would put the landfill back in the black."
Metheny said Campbell, Hartman and Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, did a fantastic job on the bill.
"If it happens, it will be a great thing," Metheny said.