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Benton County Residents Could See Bigger Garbage Bills in the Future

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BENTON COUNTY, Iowa - Time is running out for the landfill in Benton County. And that could mean some hefty fee hikes for communities that depend on that facility to handle the trash.

The county landfill, located southwest of Blairstown, will run out of room in about four to five years. And county officials recently discovered the amount of money needed to close the landfill and meet all state standards has doubled. That news will likely to mean higher garbage fees for the nearly 30,000 residents in Benton County in the coming months.

Currently, all communities in that county using the landfill pay $25 per resident per year to support the operation. The proposed fees for the coming fiscal year would go up to $32 per capita—almost a 25 percent increase.

Benton County engineer Myron Parizek said plans for closing the landfill called for capping it off with about four feet of dirt. But the county has learned that Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rules for closing a public landfill call for additional precautions, such as extra liners, that will nearly double the closing costs the county had planned on. The new figure to close the landfill is $650,000.

"About $300,000 is what needs to be placed into that fund to fully fund the closure costs," Parizek said.

To increase the amount set aside for landfill closing, the new rates ask communities to pay a lot more in landfill support. Added to garbage pickup fees, the proposed increase would probably mean $1.50 to $2.00 per month more on residential garbage bills. Ron Vogt, who was hauling some trash from the Atkins Legion, said landfill fees for Benton County residents are pretty minimal now. But if they keep going up, he thinks more people will notice.

"Oh, I'm sure that's going to happen," Vogt said.

Vinton Mayor John Watson isn't happy about the much higher than usual increase in per capita landfill fees. But he's even more concerned about future choices for disposing of garbage. There is no firm plan to replace the current landfill in Benton County when it closes. Watson said the options are a new county landfill, a transfer station that would ship waste somewhere else or telling each community to solve its own garbage problems. Each option comes with a cost.

"When you're a small community like those of us in Benton County are, you're concerned about construction costs. How do we keep up with the other counties that have a big landfill—how do we compete?" Watson said adding that affordable solid waste options are a key component of economic development.

Community leaders and Benton County Supervisors met earlier this week to discuss the big landfill fee hike request. Vinton's mayor also invited everyone to a Thursday evening discussion to go over some of the objections and the options for the future. Watson didn't expect any decisions following the meeting at Vinton's City Hall but he did expect residents to hear more about higher fees and some difficult trash choices in the future.

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