Region's Solid Waste District wrestling with finances

Friday, June 12, 2009

By E. Alan Long

Carroll County News

HARRISON -- The board of directors of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Solid Waste Management District wrestled with the national recession by prioritizing recycling grants, making changes in oversite of its operation, and restructuring its debt with Arvest Banks Tuesday.

Recycling grants were worked out with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and were more restrictive this year due to the decline of commodity markets. The reduction in income meant that operational costs could not be met, but ADEQ freed up money to be used for operations, dividing it by population.

Assuming responsibility for its operations, rather than through the economic development commission, the board has saved more than $200,000 in insurance, workman's compensation and leach aid, bring it into the black, and operating without using borrowed money for the first time since 2005.

Landfill charges will provide $78,000 instead of the projected $164,000 for the two-person solid waste office. The only other funding source is from adminstering recycling and waste tire disposal grants, which generates $33,500.

As for Arvest debt, the board lengthened its repayment plan, which was due at the end of the year, and will pay $200,000 in 2010. The move is spurred in part by bond proceeds, which have hovered as low as .05 percent. The move provides the district more time to keep its landfill in Baxter County afloat.

Addressing recycling grant change orders, the board took money for a sort pad to be constructed in 2010, and split the resulting $9,000 between repair of a truck used on recycling routes, and funding wood chips to be placed in the children's playground area of the Green Forest Parks Department.

Addressing employees' retirement plans, the board will match three percent of an employee who contributes three percent or more.

The board is considering purchasing 700 acres in a very rural part of Arkansas, but the situation is delayed due to a seven-month delay in settling a complaint against RLH Landfill near Mountain Home by state pollution officials.

ADEQ has changed its designation of the landfill, resulting in the doubling of cell construction costs and adding to monitoring costs. Solid Waste Program Coordinator Bill Lord added that the state wants the district to correct the overfilling of the landfill in the most expensive way possible.

Lord also noted that the effective division of the board into two sections, those in power and those not, also removed the economic district from the loop.

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