The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 13, 2013

Opposition forms to bill that would eliminate local solid waste districts

Cities line up against loss of local control, funding

JOPLIN, Mo. — A bill that would eliminate solid waste management districts has generated opposition in Southwest Missouri.

The city councils in Joplin and Carthage have voted to take official positions opposing Senate Bill 13, proposed by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Schaefer’s bill would eliminate solid waste districts and reduce disposal fees at landfills by the amount that now goes to the state’s 20 waste management districts for administration and operating costs. Those districts largely use the money they take in to make grants to cities and counties for recycling projects that reduce the amount of material that goes into landfills.

Schaefer or his staff did not return two telephone calls from the Globe asking for information about why he proposes disbanding the districts. He has been quoted as saying that that the Department of Natural Resources could award the grants, and that would save the money it costs for the districts to operate.

According to the bill, that would lower fees from $2.11 to $1.71 per ton at sanitary landfills and from $1.41 to $1.20 per ton at demolition landfills.

Southwest Missouri is served by the Region M Solid Waste Management District, which is funded by fees charged at the Lamar landfill.

Joplin’s public works director, David Hertzberg, told the City Council that the Lamar landfill usually ranks in the top three for volume in the state. During the debris removal effort from the Joplin tornado in 2011, it ranked first in the state, Hertzberg said.

The revenue from those fees furnishes money for trash reduction efforts in Jasper,

Newton, McDonald, Barton and Vernon counties.

Harry Rogers, of the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council, where Region M is headquartered, said one of his main concerns about the proposal is that it would eliminate the ability of local residents to make decisions about how to deal with solid waste disposal. It would shift those decisions to the state, he said, to be made by the Department of Natural Resources.

Rogers acknowledged that some parts of the state get more money than others as a result of the regional district structure and the amount taken in by landfills. But he said different regions need to decide what programs best benefit their residents.

“I don’t believe that the Senate bill addresses that,” he said. “I do not understand why decision making would be moved from local governments to the state. I don’t believe in that.”

Rogers said solid waste regions were set up in the 1990s when the state enacted a solid waste law. It gives part of the money from landfill fees to the DNR to be the monitoring agency for landfills and their effects on water purity.

DNR representatives did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Region M has taken in nearly $6.3 million for Southwest Missouri recycling and reuse projects in the past decade.

It uses about $130,000 for its staff and operations, and distributes $300,000 to $400,000 per year, depending on how much it receives, to cities and counties.

Region M has given Joplin more than $221,000 for projects the city would not have undertaken without the funding.

The Joplin Recycling Center, 1310 W. A St., is open to all residents as a result of Region M funding, said Mary Anne Phillips, Joplin’s recycling coordinator.

There also is funding for one employee there, and for much of the center’s efforts to keep electronics and household hazardous waste out of landfills.

For instance, contractors must be paid to haul away electronics such as computer monitors and televisions, which leach hazardous materials into landfills. Instead they are broken down for recycling, Phillips said.

Items such as a glass crusher to keep jars and bottles out of landfills, a compactor, and a cutter that makes packing chips out of blocks and sheets of insulated foam all were bought with Region M grants, she said.

“Region M takes care of us and we take care of the district, so everybody wins,” Phillips said.

Diverted

The Region M Solid Waste Management District has kept nearly 238,000 tons of material out of landfills since 1995, according to its figures.

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