In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:
• Approved an appropriation of $4,000 for the Barton County Arts Council, as allocated in the county’s 2013 Operating Budget. The council brings art to the county and surrounding areas, Karen Neuforth of the Arts Council said. Planned events for 2013 include the return of the Poetry Rendezvous, assisting the Great Bend Community Theater with art related needs and possibly using the Art Gallery for an artists’ cooperative. The Arts Council continues to be active in tourism.
• Approved the transfer unexpended funds from 2012 to 2013. After accounting of all the year’s transactions, money is generally transferred to the Capital Improvement and Equipment Replacement funds. This is a standard practice, and this year $80,000 will go into the Capital Improvement Fund and $200,000 to the Equipment Replacement Fund, said County Financial Officer Jessica Wilson.
• Boeckman made a report on the activities of county departments over the past two weeks.
It’s a matter of pride for Barton County Landfill Director Mark Witt that his facility north of Great Bend continues to be self sufficient, supported only by user fees.
But, legislation now before the Kansas House of Representatives could change that. House Bill 2072 would change how solid waste is managed in the state by barring county landfills from accepting waste from outside incorporated limits.
In other words, Witt said, Barton County would lose the revenue it receives from loads coming in from Pawnee and Ellsworth counties. It would also no longer be able to transport its recyclable items out of the county to other facilities.
“That would impact the pocketbook of citizens in Barton County directly,” County Administrator Richard Boeckman told County Commission Monday morning. Boeckman and Witt jointly prepared and submitted written testimony against HB2072.
Now, a tipping fee of $34 per ton funds the Barton County landfill. If the bill becomes law, the county could be forced to raise that fee by up to 25 percent or switch to a property tax to keep the gates open, Witt said.
“Our expenses will remain the same,” Witt said. In addition to routine expenses, there are a number of state and federal regulations the landfill must follow. It must also have millions of dollars available to cover the cost of closing the facility should it be necessary.
Witt believes the bill is supported by the privately owned landfills in Kansas that lose income from the local, public sites. “They don’t want to see landfills taking in waste from out of the county,” he said.
The bill would force counties to truck their waste to the handful of private landfills locations, the closest to Great Bend being in Finney and Harper counties. The rest are in the eastern and southeastern portion parts of the state.
Counties would be forced to hire private sector transportation to haul their waste to these locations. This would be a hardship on counties that don’t have the capability to handle all their waste (household and hazardous) locally, including Pawnee and Ellsworth.
The recycling is another issue. Barton County accepts old bicycles that it takes to Ellsworth Correctional Facility, old mattresses it takes to Hutchinson Correctional Facility and electronic waste that it takes to Rice County. Under the law, Witt would have to contract for transportation or drop the recycling programs.
If fees increase, Witt said he also expects to see a rise in illegal dumping.
The Barton County Landfill was established at its current site in 1973 and was expanded and licensed to handle municipal solid waste in 2001. It has a staff of seven full-time employees.