At its most recent meeting, the Oneida County Board of Supervisors approved a loan of $175,000 to the county’s solid waste department for the construction of a Demolition IV landfill site, and also approved withdrawing approximately 10 acres from the county forest law program to establish the construction material landfill.
The site is approximately a quarter mile north of the existing solid waste landfill.
According to the resolution, the demolition landfill is a significant revenue source for the solid waste department, allowing it to sustain other affordable services for the general public. The engineering, geotechnical, permitting and construction costs to develop the site are estimated to be $233,355, and up to $175,000 in additional funding is required.
The solid waste department will pay an annual interest rate of 2.38% over the term of the loan, which is five years. The department will repay the general fund an amount of $37,538.18 annually, with total repayment including interest of $187,690.90.
The loan approval restricts the use of the money to designing, permitting and building the site.
A related resolution withdrew the 10 acres of land from the county forest law program for the site. That had to be done because the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources determined that the proposed use of the county forest land was not consistent with the forest law program.
However, both the forestry committee and the public works committee concluded that the economic and environmental benefits derived from utilizing the land as a demolition landfill site outweighed the benefits of keeping the land enrolled in the county forest law program.
As part of the resolution, the solid waste department must deposit in the county’s forestry land purchase account a total of $31,200, or $3,000 per acre, for the sole purpose of purchasing replacement acreage when the opportunity arises to do so.
“The DNR basically requires that you either replace the acreage or the money that’s received for this is put into a segregated land purchase account,” acting forestry director Paul Fiene told the county board.
Fiene said the county did a similar withdrawal from the county forest program for a landfill in 2008, and in talking with the DNR he did not see any issues with getting that agency’s approval.
The solid waste department will be responsible for paying any and all fees related to the removal of the acreage from the county forest law program.
Finally, all stumpage revenue resulting from the harvest of timber currently existing on the land must be deposited into the county forest stumpage revenue account, and any stumpage revenue resulting from subsequent timber harvests, after the existing timber is removed from the parcel, will be deposited into the solid waste revenue account.
Fiene said the parcel is timbered with scattered large red pine and aspen.
“The plan is, once this is approved, we would go in and remove all the timber from that parcel and then it would be in the hands of the landfill folks to go in, strip it, stockpile the topsoil, dig a large hole, and build an access road to it,” he said.
Fiene said some structures would be built where the access road leaves Trout Creek Road to allow vehicles to pass east and west on the road but to prevent dump trucks and other vehicles from bypassing the scales and “sneaking in the back door” to get to the site.
Some cars and smaller pickups might still be able to make the turn, Fiene said, but, while no personnel would monitor the site, there would be cameras to prevent violators. The site would be gated and locked during nonoperational hours.
Bart Sexton, a consultant with Sand Creek Consultants, said the nearest homeowner from the site is more than 2,000 feet away and across Hwy. K.
“This site will be cleared and grubbed of trees,” Sexton said. “This is the third iteration for trying to find a site and this one is actually going to take the most excavation. We’re creating a hole and filling it up and then capping it at the end. All the material used for capping will be from within this proposed 10-acre withdrawal.”
Supervisor Jack Sorensen, the chairman of the forestry committee, said that committee had reviewed three possible sites, rejected two, and came up with the third one.
One complicating factor was the required distance the site must be from other sites, Fiene said.
“State statutes do not allow one demolition site, whether it is active or closed, to be within a quarter mile of another one, so we had to build a quarter-mile buffer around the other three demolition sites, and this was the best opportunity,” he said.
Supervisor Bill Liebert wondered about the future. The proposed demolition site is expected to be able to operate for seven to 10 years.
“This seems like an odd location for expansion of our landfill site,” he said. “I know there was exploration of another parcel to the east, which in my view would be worse because it would be closer to a groundwater aspect. But where do we go in 10 years when this is closed? I know we have the bike and trail and ski system kind of around the edges. I’m just curious.”
Supervisor Scott Holewinski said several options were being pursued. One was the site to the east that was rejected after nearby homeowners complained, but Holewinski said those objections might be remedied over time.
“Before we looked at the new demo site where we are proposing, we had another spot to the east but, because the forestry department had cut all the trees off, there was some objection from adjoining landowners about putting it there,” he said. “So we’re hoping the trees will grow back up, and our committee will be looking at possibly planting some trees for a future site over there.”
A second option would be to seek a change in state law.
“The other alternative is that we are working with legislators to change the quarter-mile limit to maybe half that distance, which would open up all kinds of areas for us around the existing site,” he said.
Liebert wanted to know why the county would charge itself interest on the loan. Holewinski explained that the landfill is not on the tax roll and must be self sufficient, and Jensen added that the county could actually lose money by not charging interest on the loaned funds.
“It’s an independent business unit,” Jensen said. “Money is going out of the general fund and so we can’t use it for anything else, so there should be a cost to that. And another way to look at that is, if it’s not in the general fund, it’s losing interest. It’s not there to draw interest from a bank or other investment. We’re replenishing that with the interest we’re going to pay the county.”
While the notion of landfills is distasteful to some, Jensen said, it’s an asset both to the county and to county residents.
“The demo site, whether some people like it or not, is a very valuable service that we provide in Oneida County,” he said. “Let’s say you’re ripping drywall off your house; where do you take it? The demo site is where that stuff goes. It’s needed, and it’s one of those business units of the solid waste department that has allowed us to be profitable in solid waste.”
Near the end of the discussion, supervisor Steve Schreier tried to move the conversation away from the solid-waste loan by asking if the county could loan itself money for capital improvement projects, the same way the county was doing with solid waste.
Jensen tried to answer him.
“That’s just a matter of how you look at it,” he said. “If we determine that we’ve got an undesignated amount, let’s say $4.2 million of undesignated reserve to go into capital improvement projects, I don’t know if you call it a loan, but it’s in the fund. I don’t know how else to answer that.”
At that point, one supervisor pointed out that that discussion was not on the agenda, and corporation counsel Brian Desmond said it was probably best if the board just moved on.
Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming “Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story” and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.