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City Council beginning discussions on Morris' garbage

MORRIS – With 2014 just weeks away – the year the city’s landfill is set to close – newly appointed Morris Alderman Brian Feeney inquired about what the plan is for the city’s garbage going forward.

“What do we do with the garbage when the landfill closes and how much is it going to cost?” Feeney asked during Monday’s meeting of the Morris City Council.

In 2012, the city council voted against a host agreement with Republic Services as a step toward expanding Environtech Landfill on Ashley Road.

If the host agreement had been approved, Republic intended to apply for an expansion of the landfill to extend its life by 20 to 25 years. If the expansion was granted, the landfill would have been expanded to hold 14 million cubic yards of garbage.

But the council voted 5-4 against growing the landfill, with Mayor Richard Kopczick breaking the tie against it.

The city’s existing contract with Republic expires in September 2014, Kopczick said, giving the city about nine months to come up with a solution as to where to take Morris’ garbage once time is up. September is when the landfill is expected to reach capacity.

By not expanding the landfill, the city’s garbage will have to be transported to another landfill, a cost residents will have to pay for. In addition to a higher transportation cost than they pay now, city residents also will have a gate fee for using a landfill not in their community.

Budget Officer John Enger said during the meeting that by turning down the agreement, the city and Grundy County also lost $50 million in revenue.

“It’s now on the taxpayers shoulders and they are not going to know it until it happens,” Feeney said.

Feeney was appointed to the council in October to replace Barry Aldrich, who resigned because he moved out of his ward. Feeney had previously served as an alderman, but was not on the council when the host agreement was acted on.

Feeney said he has heard discussions of sending the city’s waste to the Pontiac landfill, but the city does not know if that landfill will take it. The mayor said the city will have to go to bid to find out where the garbage could go and who would haul it. Alderman Randy Larson, previous chairman for the Health and Sanitation Committee, said there was talk of the city hauling some itself.

Whether the city returns to the idea of doing a landfill expansion or comes up with an alternative, Larson said the city needs to go out for bid by early 2014 to at least find out what the cost would be to transport its garbage elsewhere.

Kopczick said the Grundy County Solid Waste Update Steering Committee is working on a solid waste plan that is because of the state in October. The city is a part of this committee.

A proposal was made earlier this year to both the city and Grundy County by Wayne McFarland, CEO of SynTech Bioenergy. The proposal is the use of waste remediation and material recovery technologies to provide a self-sustaining way to handle municipal solid waste rather than burning it or burying it in a landfill.

SynTech Bioenergy plans to work with Morris for the land to construct the project and to obtain an agreement with the county to take on its garbage. The property preliminary identified is 11 acres on Ashley Road.

Originally he said the unit needs 250 tons of municipal waste a day to operate. This can include all residential waste, including hazardous materials like batteries and paint, because the temperature it operates at can process through those items, McFarland has said previously. It will eventually eliminate the use of landfills.

This week, he said since his original proposal, enhancements in technology would allow it to take on many more tons of waste. The project would be privately funded.

The company is currently working on terms with a funder and hopes to break ground by the spring, McFarland said. But until the plant can be built, the city would have to come up with an alternative for its garbage.

Kopczick said he had not heard updates regarding Syntech Bioenergy, but McFarland said Tuesday he has continued communication with the steering committee Chairman Dick Joyce of the county board. Joyce did not immediately return a message left Tuesday.

If the project goes forward, it will create both permanent and construction jobs and enhance the local tax base, McFarland has previously said, as well as create a carbon negative footprint, have zero ground water impact and eventually eliminate the use of landfills.

His goal is to grow this technology throughout the country, making Morris its base. Long-term opportunities include landfill recovery by treating waste currently held in landfills, tire remediation and handling waste water treatment sludge.

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