Landfill board sets budget

The North Central Regional Solid Waste Agency continues to wait for a response from the Iowa attorney general’s office as to what punishment may await due to a recent referal for violations by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

On Tuesday, the agency’s board approved the proposed $1.3 million operating budget for fiscal year 2015.

The board also continued to discuss ongoing changes to policies and operational updates since the previous landfill director, Deb Watson, was terminated in September 2013.

Watson allegedly ignored four years of Iowa DNR notifications that there were violations in the landfill operations,

Board Chairman Mark Campbell said that an active criminal case involving former employees is ongoing.

“Things were done that never came before the board,” he said. “There were things that the board never knew about and they all must be looked into.”

Among the alleged misconduct are large overpayments to vendors, as well as failure to address important administrative paperwork and permit renewals. Operational issues at the landfill included the inappropriate storage of garbage and a leachate system operated only a fraction of the time dictated by state regulations.

The agency could face fines ranging from $30,000 to $100,000, according to the board’s attorney, Steve Kersten. However, the fines seem to be levied on a very case-by-case basis and the agency has already addressed the issues and is poised to move forward, he said.

Interim landfill Director Cindy Turkle said that the landfill is currently in full compliance with the DNR and the changes being made are to update the facility and bring it into the 21st century. One of those changes was to hire an office assistant to help bring the bookkeeping process into the computer age.

“Everything was done by hand,” Turkle said, “And there is just no historical data to work with.”

Additionally, the board changed the way bills were paid so that the executive board had to approve the expenditure before it was paid.

A project to construct a new, DNR regulation-compliant area where the garbage can be piled was approved and scheduled to be completed in the spring.

A major piece of the cleanup plan was approval of switching from a dumping fee of $9 per cubic yard to a tonnage-based fee.

“This is more fair to the vehicles,” Turkle said. “Right now, they are charged for what the whole space could possibly hold and with this change to weight they are charged based on what is actually in the vehicle.”

The Fort Dodge landfill is one of the last landfills she knows of to make this switch, she said. Additionally, it will make it easier in maintaining uniform records and comparing data since the landfill must pay DNR fees on a per ton basis. The change will take effect July 1 with the exact price per ton to be decided by the executive board before then.

“When nothing has been done for decades, literally nothing, it leaves us with quite a mess that we have to clean up,” said board member Jeff Halter. “Where we are now is deciding where we start to completely address and fix this mess or if we simply want to take measures to contain it. I, for one, want this fixed.”