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Waiting game for the transfer station?
BRODHEAD - The Green County Solid Waste Management Board and the City of Monroe Board of Public Works are no closer to reaching an agreement on the use, operation and control of the county-wide solid waste transfer station than they were 18 months ago, and time is running out.

Both boards have rejected proposals and now have called for joint meetings of representatives from both parties - including attorneys.

Some SWM board members wonder if the attorneys can work together amiably, and others have begun to question whether factions at the city level are stalling and waiting for time to run out. Some wonder if the city aldermen understand fully how the transfer station works and operates on its revenue.

Nate Klassy, chairman of the SWM board, has asked for a meeting to be scheduled at the courthouse and for all the city aldermen to be invited.

Monroe's Common Council president Michael Boyce took his seat at the table of the SWM board meeting Thursday, June 13, filling one of the two new board positions created in May by the county board of supervisors. The positions must be filled by the city's presidents of the Common Council and Board of Public Works. The city's public works board president, Reid Stangel, was absent.

"I see two camps on the city council," Boyce said, "those who want to bring the operation in-house and those who want to see the transfer station survive."

Boyce said some short-sighted solutions are being considered by the city, but the city and transfer station need a longer view and need to include a solution that "keeps a few or one business from controlling the trash business in Green County."

"Some people are in favor of saving money now," he added, "... but how do we salvage the relationship between all (the participating municipalities)?"

Art Carter, chairman of the Green County Board of Supervisors, told the SWM board in March that the transfer station, under its current financial situation, could operate only until the end of the year unless a sustainable budget could be presented.

At the SWM board meeting Thursday, members reached consensus on two issues to sustain the future operation of the transfer station: Regulation of trash flow to the station by all municipal user members is needed, and the City of Monroe has to make a decision, at least by September, whether it is going to be part of the membership using the transfer station so municipalities can start working on 2014 budgets.

An August decision by the city would be better for some municipality department heads and for Randy Thompson, manager of the county transfer station, who must prepare their 2014 budgets ahead of the municipalities.

"I don't want to go in there (at county budget planning meetings) with a blank sheet of paper," Thompson said.

Where the divisions are

The county board rejected, partly on the advice of legal counsel, Monroe's proposal put forth by its city attorney March 14; and the city of Monroe rejected, mostly on the advice to its city administrator and legal counsel, the SWM counter-proposal presented June 3.

Flow control is an element presented in both proposals.

An estimated 70 percent of all the trash in the county suddenly started by-passing the county's transfer station near Brodhead on Dec. 26, 2011, when Veolia Environmental Services, a private waste collection company now owned by Advanced Waste Services, started redirecting its collected waste from Green County to a private landfill near Darian.

Less trash coming in meant less revenue for the county transfer station. County Clerk Mike Doyle, who attended Thursday's meeting, said saving the transfer station was simple mathematics. "Flow comes back; finances come back. Your problems are solved."

But neither side likes how the other wants to select or appoint members to a board overseeing the transfer station's operation and voting on how it will spend funds.

From the city's perspective, as pointed out by City Administrator Phil Rath and City Attorney Rex Ewald on June 3, the SWM board's counter-proposal is too invasive of city government. It doesn't allow for the city to choose its own people to fill the two new positions on the SWM board, which the county board of supervisors recently added specifically for city representation. And it doesn't give the city any other control over how to spend the transfer station's revenue, of which the city contributes about half, because it contributes about half the trash.

From the county's perspective, as Doyle said, "It's the county's landfill." The station and land are county property, and the county is ultimately responsible.

Ewald had proposed a separate, controlling entity, with a board consisting of equal representation from all municipalities using the station, unless a weighted voted is needed; and then population comes into play. SWM board member rejected weighted voting.

SWM board members also said the operation can't afford to pay and shouldn't pay for an extra layer of management, such as an executive director, as suggested by the city's proposal, who would not contribute to the actual labor at the station.

"He's a working manager," said Klassy, emphasizing the word "working" and gesturing toward Thompson.

Is communication breaking down?

In mid-April, three members of the SWM board, Rich Vogel, Klassy and Pat Davis, volunteered to create a subcommittee to meet with county attorney Brian Bucholtz and to include the city attorney and other needed city representatives to draft a new proposal, which they sent to the city before May 24.

But the city claims there was no communication from the county regarding its counter-proposed agreement prior to it being presented to the city's Board of Public Works June 3.

So, the Board of Public Works ordered a similar joint meeting to create a joint agreement and left the city administrator and city attorney to follow up on the matter. The SWM board reported Thursday that no one from the city has yet contacted them or Doyle for that joint effort.