The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 18, 2013

State audit makes recommendations for solid waste program

A state agency that oversees regional solid waste management districts should consider possible changes in its fee structure and whether services could be provided “more cost effectively,” a report by the office of the Missouri state auditor said Wednesday.

Landfill fees fund the districts — which fund programs to reduce the waste going into landfills — but the tipping fees charged are higher than in six of eight states that border Missouri, according to a report from the office of Tom Schweich, state auditor.

An audit of the Solid Waste Management Program, part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, found no significant problems in internal controls or non-compliance with legal requirements, but did determine improvements are needed in management practices and procedures, Schweich wrote in a letter to DNR officials.

In areas audited, overall performance was rated as good, he said.

The review also repeats an argument raised in this year’s session of the Missouri General Assembly, when Sen. Kurt Schaefer introduced legislation to dissolve the regional solid waste management districts and allow funds for recycling and related programs to be handed out by the state. The goal of his proposal, Schaefer said, was to lower operating costs of districts and allow per-ton landfill tipping fees to be reduced. The bill would have lowered fees from $2.11 to $1.71 at sanitary landfills and from $1.41 to $1.20 at demolition landfills.

The measure was introduced in the Senate before the start of the session, but was never voted on by the chamber. It attracted opposition from cities and counties, including Joplin, Carthage and Jasper County, whose officials argued that decisions on funding for recycling programs should be made at the regional level and not by the state.

Based on a split outlined in legislation, the tonnage fee generates $800,000 for the state’s Environmental Improvement and Energy Resource Authority and $200,000 for districts that receive fewer funds under a prior formula. Then 39 percent of the remaining funds goes to the state’s solid waste management program and 61 percent to the districts.

There are 20 solid-waste management districts in the state. In the area, state funding for recycling programs are overseen by officers of the Region M Solid Waste Management District, encompassing Barton, Jasper, Vernon, Newton and McDonald counties.

Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner for Jasper County and president of the district board, said fees paid via the state to the districts “were set up years ago and have never been raised.

“We don’t think they’re out of line and we hope this isn’t another argument that it should all be handled by the state. We think the programs need to be kept local. We get a lot of recycling done for this area,” he said.

Grant allocations are administered under contract by the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council and that all activities of the district are overseen by DNR. In addition to reporting to the state, the management district also undergoes its own outside audit each year, said Harry Rogers, council executive director.

The audit recommends DNR perform “a comprehensive review to determine the most cost-effective method to deliver solid-waste management services statewide, including whether the current tonnage fee can be reduced or the funding allocation formula should be revised.”

In responding to the recommendation, DNR notes the passage, also in the past legislative session, of a bill that established a Joint Committee on Solid Waste Management District Operations.

The committee is to provide a report, including any recommended legislative changes, by Dec. 31. The DNR will work with the committee to provide any information requested.

Committee hearing

The newly-formed Joint Committee on Solid Waste Management District Operations will hold its first hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Jefferson City. Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner for Jasper County and president of the Region M Solid Waste Management District board, said he and others on the district board may attend to testify.

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