More accountability of recycle grants sought

2013-03-25T00:00:00Z More accountability of recycle grants soughtPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

Lake County Solid Waste Management District distributes about $2.8 million -- about 55 percent of its 2013 budget -- to all county municipalities based on population.

The money is supposed to be used for the communities' recycling programs, but that might not always be the case.

Larry Anderson, vice chairman of the district's citizens advisory committee, would like to see more accountability in how the district grant money is spent because, while the total pot the district has to spend on all its programs is dwindling with the closing of landfills, the amount given out in grants has remained constant.

"One thing I hope to do this year is get as much information as I can on how it has been spent in the last year or two," Anderson said. "I think it is something the board and the public need to know. It's a large pot of money, and it needs to be scrutinized."

Anderson said the communities do not have to provide any information on how the money is spent. It appears most of it is spent for recycling operations or education programs, but some has been spent to buy equipment not related to recycling, to supplement communities' overall operating costs -- or not spent at all.

Anderson said one community has saved most or all of its grant money for several years and has a pot of more than $1 million dollars it can use as it pleases. Other communities would be hard-pressed to operate their recycling programs without the grant money.

"I don't know what the answer is or what the problem is, but I feel it needs to be looked into and examined in a rational manner," he said. "I'm not trying to cut anybody's legs out from under them, but I'm afraid it's become more of an entitlement, and how it is used is not really available."

Anderson said the committee was created to oversee what the district board does and to bring issues to the board when it finds them.

"One of the things I hope to do this year with the other committee members and with (solid waste specialist Leonard) White is to lay out as much information as we can gather and share it with the board to determine how to move ahead," he said.

"I do feel strongly it needs to be looked at and monitored. When you are talking millions of dollars, there ought to be more oversight and more transparency."

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