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Michigan: Tecumseh Council rejects Lenawee County waste plan.

Concerned over a possible countywide millage, the Tecumseh city council unanimously rejected Lenawee County's amendment to its state-required solid waste management plan.

Tecumseh residents already pay for citywide trash and recycling through their taxes. City officials said they could end up paying for services they are not receiving if county residents approve a waste disposal millage.

A change in the county's solid waste management plan, required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, was needed since the closing of the Adrian Landfill by its operator, Republic Services, in 2013.

The landfill was where the county had disposed of its waste. The amended plan details what will happen now that the county will be required to send its waste outside of its borders.

After holding public hearings, the Lenawee County Board of Commissioners approved the plan at its Oct. 12 meeting. Now it must be approved by two-thirds of all municipalities within the county before it can send the plan to the DEQ.

The plan calls for the county to raise funds through local governments, grants, self-funding through private sector sponsorships and fees or raise revenue through a countywide millage increase to cover the estimated $120,000 a year used to pay for a number of recycling centers throughout the county. That money had been coming from the 90 cents per ton tipping fee charged for all waste disposed at the Adrian Landfill before it closed.

In the few years since the closing of the landfill, the county had been dipping into its general fund to continue these services.

City council members objected to the millage option. The city already has negotiated its own agreement with Republic Services to provide Tecumseh residents with free, weekly curbside pickup of recycling and trash, paid out of the general fund.

City Manager Dan Swallow told the council he had expressed the city's concerns to the county commission and was told the city's situation should be recognized and if there was some countywide funding, maybe it could be used to reimburse municipalities that already have recycling programs.

Swallow also told the council approving the plan did not mean a countywide millage would be the funding choice of county lawmakers. It was just one option. Swallow also told the council it could approve or reject the plan, or it could postpone a vote and have him send written correspondence to county officials to clarify their situation. The deadline to make a decision is Jan. 1.

Council member Gary Naugle asked if Tecumseh residents would have to pay a tax on trash collection if the county decides to pursue a millage.

"If they explored it, put it on the ballot and the voters approved it, obviously then, yes, that would be part of the regular millage that our residents would see on their tax bill," Swallow said.

Naugle said he was skeptical of the county's promises its could find way to reimburse the city. Mayor Jack Baker agreed.

"If indeed we approve this and (if a countywide millage) goes to the voters in this county and they approve it, it's not fair," Baker said. "So what I would like to see, if we were to consider approving this, is that if indeed what they're considering is taken to the voters of this county and it does indeed pass, we have a guarantee that the amount of money we would pay into this is reimbursed."

Councilmember Ron Wimple said he could not support the plan unless the county outlines what changes in leadership it would make to not waste the revenue they would gain from a countywide millage.

"If I remember correctly, they had trouble running that program when they were getting the tipping fees," Wimple said. "I guess I have some concerns that the management of that--if things haven't changed since they've closed down--how is it going to be better with the same team they had that was having issues when they were getting tipping fees?

Council member Stephanie Harmon also was unable to see how the city would benefit.

"It just sounds like they're asking for money from us for our trash to be taken someplace that it's already being taken," Harmon said. "I don't like the idea of more millage on our people. If we're already self-contained, do we need to go to the county?"

Source: Dmitriy Shapiro, Daily Telegram
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Publication:Solid Waste Report
Date:Nov 14, 2016
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