Back in October, more than five months ago, the Morris Daily Herald called upon the city of Morris – and, in turn, the Grundy County Board – to ensure any host agreement approved preceding a possible expansion request for the Environtech Landfill be as solid as possible.
In working toward that goal, committees of the Morris City Council, working together, went through the host agreement proposed by Environtech owner Republic Services with a proverbial fine-toothed comb. They looked at the multi-page document page by page and point by point, analyzing if items like the property value guarantee program, water-well inspection effort and aquifer protection plans were the best they could be.
Nearly six months after the city’s review of the document first began, the proposal re-emerged earlier this month on first the county board’s agenda and then, a week later, on the Morris City Council’s. In keeping with its rules, the county board did not consider the host agreement on March 13, instead acting to place it on file for public review and consideration in April.
One member of the public who has been reviewing the proposals of the document throughout the process, local businessman Arthur Hornsby, that night informed the county board of several items in the host agreement that he considered to be remaining deficiencies. He pointed out several specific areas of the agreement where the benefits and protections for the city and county were not as great as those Republic is providing or had agreed to provide at other landfill sites it owns.
Specifically, as was noted again during the Morris City Council meeting, there were concerns that Republic’s agreements with the Kendall County and Pontiac landfills were better than what the company offered Morris and Grundy County.
As it turned out, four members of the Morris City Council and – much to the surprise of some in attendance at the meeting – Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick apparently shared those concerns. With Aldermen Randy Larson, Drew Muffler, Barry Aldrich and Bill Martin opposing passage of the host agreement, Mayor Kopczick cast a tie-breaking vote and, as a result, the city officially rejected the plan.
“I said I would back in 2001 when I ran. This should be no surprise to anyone,” the mayor said of his vote, which came after a member of the public stood up at the meeting to assert the mayor was going to go back on his campaign promise and to accuse Kopczick of pressuring aldermen to vote in favor of the plan.”
Having now seen that the Morris City Council took to heart our October plea they not settle for a host agreement that wasn’t the most beneficial agreement possible, the Morris Daily Herald joins many vocal members of the public in applauding the council for its decision to reject the proposed agreement.
Beyond that, however, we find ourselves seeing a need to offer our praise to the mayor and the already noted half of the city’s aldermen for another reason as well. Not stopping there, we also feel it necessary to publicly recognize all of the council – and members of the Grundy County Board, as well – for allowing the process to run its course.
Kopczick and the four aldermen whom the mayor joined in their dissent are to be praised as much for not accepting an inferior agreement, as for having the guts as politicians fighting a difficult economy to not put the fast, easy money ahead of the needs for health, safety and security for their constituents. What the mayor and these board members did on Tuesday is all too uncommon in this day and age, a fact we have been all-too-often reminded of by campaign ad after campaign ad in advance of Tuesday’s election.
We also recognize the full council and the Grundy County Board of stepping back from their personal opinions – whether they were ultimately for or against the host agreement and/or the eventual expansion of the landfill – long enough to allow the process to run its course.
As Mayor Kopczick put it when challenged before the vote on his stance regarding the host agreement, it was Republic’s right to come before the council.
“I don’t make the law. I follow the law,” Kopczick said. “I haven’t changed any, but… like I just said, they have the right.”
It was by following the law that the city of Morris was able to know where Republic stood, fully evaluate the plans, and publicly air all elements of what could happen if the landfill were given a chance to expand. It was the process that led to the outcome, an outcome which assured Republic knows fully why the project was rejected, recognized the public’s say on the matter, and left the city and county in a highly defensible position should Environtech’s owners attempt to somehow force their hand through the court system.
The city of Morris seemingly got this one right. We hope they will continue with the same mindset – whether or not an agreement and/or expansion are eventually accepted – when and if a revised host agreement is presented for further review. We said it in October and we say it again – they owe it to the people they serve to only accept the most beneficial agreement possible.
The Morris Daily Herald Editorial Board is led by Publisher Gerry Burke and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. It makes its editorial decisions in consultation with other members of the Herald staff.