The Lake County Solid Waste Management District's enormous budget includes grants to communities for recycling. But that's not necessarily how the recipients use that money.
Larry Anderson, vice chairman of the district's citizens advisory committee, offers a voice of reason on these grants.
"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 it not readily available," Anderson said.
About 55 percent of the district's whopping $4.6 million budget goes to county municipalities based on population, supposedly to be used for recycling programs.
That's not necessarily how the $2.8 million in grants is used, though.
Anderson said one community has saved this money over the years and has amassed more than $1 million to use as it pleases.
Some communities have spent the money on equipment unrelated to recycling, Anderson said.
That's not how it's supposed to be.
"I do feel strongly it needs to be looked at and monitored," Anderson said. "When you are talking millions of dollars, there ought to be more oversight and transparency."
That's an easy reform for the Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board to make.
Set up a grant program that requires communities to indicate how they plan to use the money, then require proof that the money was spent as specified in the grant request. If a community fails to comply, make it sit out a year before it becomes eligible again. Make sure this money is well spent.
Porter County recycled 5,400 tons of material in 2012. Lake County has three times the population but recycled only about 11,400 tons. There's room for improvement, and it begins with making sure the money isn't wasted.
The Lake County Solid Waste Management District should make sure those grants are being used as intended, not frittered away for other purposes or allowed to accumulate.
These grants must be for recycling programs, nothing else.