City looks at landfill’s future

Published 6:44 pm Monday, April 2, 2018

The City of LaGrange’s landfill is expected to completely fill within the next 10 to 20 years, and the council began discussion on what needs to be done to guarantee that service can continue for decades to come.

One of the major considerations during the discussion during last week’s council retreat was the impact of corporate garbage on the landfill in terms of space and cost. The city has been losing money on collections that go to the landfill since 2010, and a large part of that loss has been due to corporate trash.

Several solutions were offered, ranging from continuing to fill the landfill and then paying an estimated $42.5 million a year to transfer the trash elsewhere beginning in 2030 when the landfill is expected to be full. Other options discussed included mining older sections of the landfill for recyclables in hopes of extending the life of the landfills and bringing in some revenue from the recycling, though that would cost $13.4 million a year. The most discussed option was the possibility of eliminating industrial pickup.

“It could be we eliminate our commercial sanitation operation, which reduces our tons per day,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “Basically, if you look at the map, we are bringing about a hundred tons a day of residential into the landfill and 250 of it is commercial. Potentially — just rough estimate — that might give us another 10 years, maybe longer, but again, it goes back to the mayor’s point that if we stop doing it, the private haulers could haul it to our landfill, which may not get it to 10 years.”

According to Kelsey, the current system has been in place with few changes for about 20 years. The mayor and council discussed the possibility of phasing out corporate use of the landfill out of concern that residential trash pickup customers are essentially subsidizing industrial trash pickup. The possibility of increasing rates for businesses in order to fund a transfer station or purchasing a new landfill site were discussed.

“I think we need to raise the commercial prices to try to shore up the loss,” Council member Nathan Gaskin said. “That is priority number one, then do a study to see if we are being competitive.”

That increase — if approved — could also be used to purchase additional land for a new landfill. Council members also pointed out that it did not make sense to run a service for businesses at a loss when private businesses offered the same services in the area.

“My thought is, number one, it is not profitable,” Council member Willie Edmondson said. “It is not profitable either way because we are putting more into our landfill, and then we are not making money. My first thought is to cut out commercial all together.”

Kelsey knew of two private contractors currently performing the same service within the city, and council members discussed ceasing commercial pickup to allow a business that is set up to make a profit take over instead of allowing the city to lose money on the service.

“Why would we operate a commercial business that is losing $2.5 million a year?” Council member Mark Mitchell asked.

Council member TomGore suggested that the city work to secure land that can be used for a new landfill while the city council continues its discussion on what the future of the landfill will be since land acquisition is generally the longest and most difficult part of the process.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on April 10 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.