MARC CHASE: Landfill annexation idea doesn't stink

2014-01-21T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Landfill annexation idea doesn't stinkMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
January 21, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Few words inspire such a literal holding of noses as the word "landfill."

Few cities, towns or even unincorporated areas want any form of a dump within their borders -- though most have no problem creating the refuse that goes into landfills.

But what if a landfill already exists just outside town? And what if it's not your average stinky dump but a landfill for largely odorless construction debris?

If it's already sitting on your border — and you're getting zero financial benefit from it — wouldn't it make sense to at least explore annexing such a privately owned facility's land to increase municipal revenue?

This is an issue facing Lowell, where at least three of the five Town Council members favor the exploration of annexing the land upon which Republic Services — a trash hauling and disposal company — operates a construction landfill.

The landfill is on unincorporated Lake County land on Ind. 2 — the main drag running right into Lowell.

Call me crazy, and many in Lowell probably will, but it might be time for longtime landfill naysayers to consider bringing this facility — and an additional 80 acres Republic Services recently purchased adjacent to the landfill — into the town's fold.

Many in town never wanted the landfill to open next door to begin with. But Republic Services has been operating it for years, accepting drywall, concrete and other construction waste.

I've toured the landfill on a couple of occasions, and it appears to be as advertised. There is no stink there. It doesn't accept toxic waste — or even the smelly garbage from the waste cans in your kitchens and garages.

So if the landfill already exists as Lowell's neighbor, and an annexation opportunity exists that by some estimates could generate between $75,000 and $200,000 per year in host fees for the town, why wouldn't it be worth exploring?

Many people are turned off by any kind of landfill. Mention the now-closed Feddeler Landfill — also located just outside Lowell and directly across the street from the construction debris facility — and collective shudders emanate from townsfolk.

A few years ago, some believed toxic or other harmful waste was in the landfill — something EPA testing later contradicted. Even so, a construction landfill is far from the same animal.

Lowell Councilman Don Parker makes sense in his push for the exploration of landfill annexation.

In an era of shrinking municipal budgets, all possible new revenues that don't come on the backs of taxpayers — or through the burdens of borrowing — should be considered.

Parker also believes annexation would give the town more control over future expansion issues — or in determining a use for the land when the landfill inevitably closes someday. Though it could end up costing the company more in host fees to the town, Republic Service officials have said they're not opposed to Lowell annexation.

Due diligence — under the watch of all five council members — is in order to ensure annexation makes financial sense and wouldn't create undue liabilities. But Lowell shouldn't be closing its eyes to the possibilities.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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