WILLIAM NANGLE: Lake's solid waste board is wasting time

2013-08-04T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: Lake's solid waste board is wasting timeBy William Nangle nwitimes.com
August 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

You would think $5 million a year could buy a lot.

That’s the payout in tax support for the Lake County Solid Waste Management District. The district in part spends the money to encourage recycling in region communities.

This is the same waste board that wasted nearly five years pursuing the illusion of turning trash into ethanol.

I am sure you remember the “trashanol scandal.” An Evansville businessman claimed he could take thousands of tons of Lake County garbage, process it into ethanol at a plant in rural Schneider, turn a profit for his company and reduce trash disposal costs throughout the county.

It didn’t happen. And months after the board killed the flimflam project, the board has not met and has no apparent idea of how to fashion a countywide waste disposal system.

Dave Hamm, one of the good guys who pulled the trash-to-ethanol plug, put it this way: “This board was hoodwinked before into believing a company could turn garbage into fuel. What we need now is really simple, proven technologies and common sense.”

Amen to Mr. Hamm, chairman of the district board, and to those who want something good to happen, something that can be achieved.

But again, the problem is the board has not met since killing the trash-to-ethanol plan in April. Meanwhile, the district keeps spending what is among the most lavish budgets of its type in the state.

Of course, the district seems to have lost one of its big backers and advisers with the resignation of Lake County Commissioner Gerry Schueb from the board, who said he won't serve again after his term ends in December.

He was the big time cheerleader for the trash-to-ethanol project, having navigated the political waters to help secure long-term consideration by the board. It’s apparent to me when the plan failed, Gerry bailed.

Too bad he isn’t sticking around after the trash-to-ethanol crash to help find that ”common sense” approach to a countywide disposal system.

As for the future, the board needs to meet and take up the task given it.

And somebody needs to carefully comb through spending at the district to answer the question: Are taxpayers getting the value from a $5 million annual investment? If not, who is?

William Nangle is executive editor of The Times. He can be reached at The Times, 601 45th St., Munster, IN 46321 or at bill.nangle@nwi.com.

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