Government

$25 million proposal to Marion to expand county landfill tabled

Solid Waste Agency to form subcommittee to create more detailed presentation

Birds fly overhead at the landfill at the Solid Waste Agency in Marion on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Birds fly overhead at the landfill at the Solid Waste Agency in Marion on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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(Correction: Steve Hershner, Utilities Director for the City of Cedar Rapids and treasurer of the Solid Waste Agency board, is one of the four sub-committee members. A previous version of this story included incorrect information.)

MARION — The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency board of directors tabled discussion Tuesday about a proposal that would offer the city of Marion $25 million over 50 years in host fees if they agree to let the agency expand the county landfill.

Scott Olson, Cedar Rapids City Council member and an agency board member, made a motion to table discussion about the proposal and instead form a four-member subcommittee to put together a more detailed presentation.

The motion was seconded by Greg Smith, board secretary and member of the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, and approved unanimously by the eight-member board.

“This is an important discussion, and I think we need more time to have that discussion,” Olson said.

The proposal would amend the agency’s 2006 agreement with the city of Marion, offering to pay the city a host fee of $2.50 per ton. That could generate half a million dollars a year over the next 50 years, or until the landfill is at capacity.

The landfill receives 200,000 tons of garbage a year.

Brent Oleson — chairman of the agency’s board, a Linn County supervisor and a Marion resident, said he and Olson began drafting a request to the city of Marion to expand the landfill to a sixth cell after Solid Waste Agency Director Karmin McShane approached the board about cell construction this past summer.

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The agency will begin excavation of a fifth cell in 2020 and construction in 2021. If cell six is approved, excavation of cell five will include preparation for that sixth cell.

A sixth cell would extend the landfill’s life to 2077.

If a sixth cell is not opened, the landfill will close in 2044, and Linn County trash will need to go elsewhere in the county, be exported to other counties or shipped out of state.

Oleson said before presenting their request to the Marion City Council, he would like to provide more information to members of the 28E Agreement — Linn County and the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion — that was created when the Solid Waste Agency was formed in 1994.

Cedar Rapids and Marion have not received any formal requests or information about the Solid Waste Agency’s hope to expand the landfill.

“I’m fine with that, as long as we’re moving forward to get a presentation to the Marion City Council,” Oleson said.

He added that it’s “questionable” the city will want to consider a proposal to add a sixth cell.

Oleson said the agency board needs to find out if the Marion City Council is interested in this discussion.

“This board is independent,” Oleson said. “We have an independent obligation on this board to do what’s right for the agency. Right now, it looks like what’s right is to take a little more time so everyone has the right information, and we as a board can put together a presentation for the city of Marion to consider, if that’s what we decide to do.”

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The board approved appointing Oleson, Olson, Steve Hershner, treasurer and Cedar Rapids Utilities Director, and Terry Chew, representative for the city of Marion, to the subcommittee.

Smith said he wants the subcommittee not only to look into the effects of expanding the landfill to a sixth cell, but what the cost would be to residents in Marion, Cedar Rapids and Linn County if the landfill is closed.

Bill Copper, whose family owns land to the west and south of the landfill, said during the public-comment period the Settlement Agreement should be honored.

“Iowans share the burden (of the landfill) and this shouldn’t be dumped on Marion again,” Copper said.

Erik Miles of Cedar Rapids said he had been a part of a mediation group representing the city of Marion before litigation between Linn County and the city of Marion began in 2005 that led to the settlement agreement.

“We would like to make sure things progress according to the good-faith efforts put into the original settlement agreement,” Miles said.

The Solid Waste Agency board’s next meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Solid Waste Agency in Marion. Meetings are open to the public.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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