Growing Number of Landfills Draws Concerned Citizens to Fiscal Court
Concerns over the growing number of landfills in the county brought several worried citizens to the Butler County Courthouse on Friday evening for a special session of the Butler County Fiscal Court. All members were present except Magistrate Keith Daugherty. Special sessions require that no deviation can occur from the printed agenda and no other items can be added to the agenda at the meeting. Also nothing can be discussed at the meeting that was not on the pre-printed agenda.
The meeting opened with Lisa Evans addressing the court concerning a county siting ordinance. Evans--a Butler County native working as an Internal Policy Analyst for the Kentucky Division of Waste Management--had been asked by the Fiscal Court to lend her expertise to help deal with the growing number of landfills within Butler County.
Evans opened her portion of the discussion to report that she had looked over a siting ordinance prepared by County Attorney Dick Deye. Among other things, she said the siting ordinance is needed to deal with CDD--Construction/Demolition Debris--landfill sites within Butler County. Evans explained that less-than-one-acre CDD sites are not strictly regulated by the State government, therefore individual counties must set permitting processes and regulations for the sites. Otherwise they can legally locate anywhere operators can buy or lease land, and the state will grant a permit.
Evans said the ordinance prepared by the County Attorney looked good, and needed just a few minor changes. Deye said he had based the ordinance on one from Green County. He told the Fiscal Court that the ordinance did not ban less-than-one-acre land fills, but set a permitting process as well as provisions to properly close the site once it had been filled. He said it would also set financial responsibility for closing the site and give the county the authority to levy penalties, etc. Deye told the court, “Ultimately the decision to issue a permit would rest with the Fiscal Court.”
Magistrate David Whittinghill asked Deye who would be responsible for repairing damage done to county roads and other infrastructure caused by operation of the site. The County Attorney said that that was something that provisions would need to be made for within the ordinance and that he would look at it.
Whittinghill also asked who would have to clean up a site if it were abandoned by the operator. Again Deye said that the ordinance contained language requiring financial collateral or surety bonds that would pay for the cleanup of the site if abandoned. Whittinghill asked if that meant a state agency would be required to do the cleanup or if the county would do the work or let a bid for the cleanup. Deye answered that the county could do the cleanup or allow the work to be bid, but that it would be solely in the Fiscal Court’s hands.
Evans told the magistrates that the county ordinance would only deal with less-than-one-acre sites. State regulations govern all sites one acre and over. Chad Tyree asked if the state required bonding for less-than-one-acre sites. Evans answered, telling Tyree that the state had no bond regulations for the sites, then stressed, “ I highly recommend you require bonding in your ordinance.”
Second District Magistrate Johnny Tuck joined the discussion asking, “Is there any way we can make an ordinance so stringent that they can’t locate here?” Evans said that Warren County has an ordinance banning less-than-one-acre landfills. She explained that that is part of the reason contractors such as Ken-Way are trying to locate in Butler County.
A lengthy, sometimes emotional, discussion then opened involving Evans, the Fiscal Court, and several concerned citizens from the county. Of particular concern is a 20-acre parcel of land on Dunbar Coal Road recently purchased by Ken-Way Contracting for the express purpose of opening less-than-one-acre CDD landfills.
Residents along Dunbar Coal Road are opposed to Ken-Way opening CDD landfills on the piece of land. Among their objections they list concerns over heavy truck traffic on the narrow road, danger to other motorists caused by the trucks, health concerns from the materials put into the landfill, lowered property values, and the possible perception that Butler County is a ready place for other counties and cities to haul their garbage and debris.
Mike Sykes and Theresa Johnson, both Dunbar Coal Road residents, led most of the input from the visitors. Sykes told the Fiscal Court that letting this happen is making our county worse. “We want our county to get better, not worse,” said Sykes.
Dr. Jim Beatty, a Bowling Green physician with property and family on the road spoke to the court. Beatty said, “We are talking about seriously bad things here in construction waste,” referring to the materials that are disposed in CDD landfills. He continued, “I mean cancer causing stuff.”
Residents Bobby and Doris McPherson next took the floor. Bobby McPherson addressed Warren County’s ban on less-than-one-acre CDD landfills. “If it’s good enough for Warren County not to have these landfills then it should be good enough for Butler County too.”
Doris McPherson then directly asked County Judge-Executive David Fields, “How long would it take to get the ordinance to stop this?” Fields told her that it would take two meetings to pass the ordinance, and that it would also have to be published in the county newspaper of record. “It would take about two months,” said Fields. He also said that the landfill at Aleris and any other sites already open in the county would be grandfathered in and would be allowed to continue operating.
Johnson reported that the permits required to open the first acre of the site on Dunbar Coal Road had been printed three consecutive weeks in the Butler County newspaper of record. Lisa Evans told the court that since the permits have been printed three times that the next step is for the state to issue the permit in 5 business days if no public objections are received. Because the printing date of the paper of record is on Wednesdays in Butler County that means that the five business day period to lodge objections closes Wednesday, February 20th, at the end of the state business day. Magistrate Stevie Givens asked if an extra day would be given to lodge complaints because of the President’s Day holiday falling on Monday, February 18th, but Evans told him that Monday is not a state holiday.
Evans told the court and crowd that there is a telephone number that can be used to call and voice an opinion on the matter. The number is (502)-564-6716 and is the office and after hours voicemail of Bob Bickner, with the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection.
Teresa Johnson then asked the court and Evans, “Will it even do any good to call?” Both Evans and County Attorney Dick Deye assured Johnson that comments from local residents would be vital if anything was to stall the permit process for the site. Deye said that the calls could lead to a public hearing, and Evans added that it could also force a denial of the permit. Sykes and Johnson both then expressed concerns over the size of the land parcel bought by Ken-Way. Sykes told the court that he had learned that it takes approximately a year to fill a one-acre site. “If that’s the case then they’ve got enough land out there to operate for the next twenty years.” Johnson then asked the court, “If he gets this site open are we stuck with it for the next twenty years or more?”
Lisa Evans explained that although Ken-Way might be able to open the first acre of the site that subsequent openings on the same property would require a separate permit. “The way the laws work you have to get a permit for each acre that you open, and you can’t grandfather them in if the county passes some kind of ordinances against them,” said Evans.
With the potential for the permit to be issued soon the discussion then turned to ways the county could prevent the operation from opening. Mike Sykes asked why a weight limit couldn’t be placed on the road to stop trucks from reaching the site. Before the idea could be discussed County Attorney Dick Deye interjected that the county could not legally put a weight limit of that sort on just one road. “I’m pretty sure we can’t do something like that arbitrarily,” said Deye.
James Beatty, a resident of Dunbar Coal Road, asked Judge Fields if the Ken-Way site had the proper business licenses and was told that they aren’t required by the county, only the City of Morgantown.
Both Sykes and Johnson told the court that they had been contacted by representatives from Ken-Way and assured that the landfill was good for Butler County. Sykes said that the representative of Ken-Way told him that there is already an employee at the site on a daily basis and that the company is paying taxes and fees and adding to the local economy. Theresa Johnson asserted that any financial gains for the county did not outweigh the potential health risks from the site. Johnson told the court, “We owe it to our children not to let this happen here.”
Bobby McPherson asked the court if there was any way to move ahead faster than two months. Lisa Evans added that she was worried about the site that had had its permit advertised.
Whittinghill asked Judge Fields if special called meetings could be used to speed the process of passing the ordinance. Fields referred the question to the County Attorney and was told that it was legal to present the ordinance in a special called meeting, but that it would still need to be printed in the county newspaper of record before it could be voted into law. Deye said that it was important that Evans review the ordinance. “We want Ms. Evans to make sure what we have is best for us,” Deye. He told Fields he would then be able to make final changes and give it to the Judge early in the week. Fields said that when the ordinance was complete that a special meeting could be called.
No formal action was taken. The discussion moved to the next agenda item, a county nuisance ordinance.
County Attorney Dick Deye presented the Fiscal Court with copies of an ordinance he had prepared based on a similar ordinance from Ballard County. “Ballard County has an excellent ordinance for this sort of thing because of the widespread use of mobile homes and campers at the lake,” said Deye. He explained that the nuisance ordinance dealt with abandoned mobile homes, junked cars, junked or abandoned campers, excess junk or debris, weeds, etc. related to abandoned or unmaintained property.
By the letter of the ordinance the County Solid Waste Enforcement Officer, Timmy West, would have the authority to investigate complaints and issue citations to land owners. Deye said that once a citation was issued the case would be reviewed by the county, and that possible fines could be levied if the site wasn’t cleaned. He also said that if an owner refused the cleanup that the county could do the work and a lien would be placed against the property for any and all costs incurred.
David Whittinghill asked Lisa Evans if any sort of state grants existed to help clean up abandoned trailers. She answered that the actual trailer could not be removed with grant monies, but that grants were available to clean up insulation, wood, and other debris left behind when trailers are abandoned.
Discussion of the nuisance ordinance was limited and no action was taken, but it was agreed it would be discussed at length in upcoming meetings.
The next item on the agenda pertained to hiring a part-time employee for the Butler County Animal Shelter. Judge Fields told the court that the current part-time employee had quit and that an emergency replacement was in place. He asked the court for authority to advertise for a part-time shelter employee, and measure passed by a 5-0 vote.
The magistrates also approved routine bills and transfers. The meeting was then adjourned.
NOTE: Citizens wishing to leave comments about the proposed less-than-one-acre landfill on Dunbar Coal Road should call; Bob Bickner, Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection. Area code (502) 564-6716. Calls can be made during regular business hours or after hours to a voicemail system.