By Beth Christian Broschart
CHARLESTON - Calling it a "huge win for the city of Elkins," local officials rejoiced after a bill designed to help fund the official closing of the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill was passed in the final hours of this year's Legislative session Saturday.
House Bill 4339, which could lift the heavy financial burden associated with the landfill, was approved at approximately 10 p.m. Saturday. Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, the lead sponsor of the bill, said she was thrilled.
"It just shows that you can work hard on a bill and if you can't get it through the House and Senate before the deadline, you have to start over," Campbell said. "I am glad this passed. The final step now is for the governor to sign the bill into law. I don't know any reason it would not meet with his approval. The funds are available and come from the (state Division of Environmental Protection)."
"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," Campbell said. "
Other sponsors of the bill were Delegates William Hartman, D-Randolph, Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, and Del. Dana Lynch, D-Webster.
Campbell said HB 4339 passed unanimously through the House Judiciary and Financial committees, as well as on the House floor, before going to the Senate Judiciary and Financial committees. The bill passed both Senate committees, but was amended to include a facility in Wayne County. The amended bill passed the House floor on Saturday, with only one delegate voting no, she said.
Campbell said the bill was needed because the deadline for applications for assistance was in 2000 and Elkins did not apply. The Elkins-Randolph County Landfill was closed in September 2011, but Elkins residents are currently paying about $333,700 in annual operating costs at the landfill and $262,274 in outstanding debt. The landfill has not generated any revenue since its closure. In July, Elkins City Council voted to raise the Elkins Sanitation rates by 32 percent to keep the landfill afloat.
Once the bill is signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Elkins can apply for the estimated $8.6 million needed to close and cap the landfill according to state regulations. The money would come 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 said.
Campbell began to work on the bill after she was contacted about the landfill situation by Elkins Mayor Van Broughton and City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith. Campbell contacted the DEP and worked with agency officials on crafting the bill.
Broughton said he spoke Saturday with Tomblin, who said he was aware of the bill and would notify the mayor when the bill would be signed so he could come to Charleston.
"I was texting Elkins City Council members Saturday to keep them up to date on the progress of the bill," Broughton said. "Everyone is very excited it passed. When the governor signs the bill, we will begin to make application to get the closure plan in place."
Broughton said he is thankful for everyone who helped in bringing the bill to this point.
"I thank God for helping put me where I am, surrounded by great, successful people who helped put this in place," Broughton said. "I made closing the landfill a priority when I ran for office because it is such a big deal for the city and county. This just shows when folks work together for a common goal, it can be accomplished. I am thankful to Delegate Denise Campbell, Delegate Bill Hartman, Senator Greg Tucker and Senator Clark Barnes for all their work."
Broughton said being in Charleston was like being at a basketball tournament.
"I am a huge basketball fan," Broughton said. "I was focused in on this bill and I have to say, when we came out of the Capitol in Charleston, we are winners. This is a huge win for the city of Elkins."