HARRISON, Ark. – People in Northern Arkansas may want to start putting back an extra $20 every year in the name of garbage.
The board of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District – covering Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Marion, Searcy and Newton Counties – met in Harrison, Thursday.
One of the topics of discussion was a proposal to assess a yearly $18 fee on residences and businesses in the district.
The fee stems from the bankrupt NABORS landfill in Baxter County, located a few miles north of Mountain Home.
When the landfill went under, the site was placed in control of a court-appointed receiver. But several issues remained at the property: the landfill didn’t meet environmental regulations and the bond holders who helped pay for the landfill were left holding the bag.
The proposal of a yearly $18 fee on residents by the court-appointed receiver, would cover both of those costs.
“I think Carroll County citizens are going to be caught by surprise,” says board member and Eureka Springs Mayor, Butch Berry.
“We put an $18 fee from this board on to everybody’s tax assessment, I think it’s going to be a very negative reaction,” says board member and Baxter County Judge, Mickey Pendergrass.
Most, if not all, of the board has reservations about the fee.
It’s been known for some time that citizens might have to pay for landfill closure costs – estimated at $16.5-million. But the $11-million the fee would also generate for bond holders, raises some red flags.
Some, like Berry, are concerned it would lead to lawsuits on down the line.
“Basically what we’re doing is a fee for debt, and that’s not right,” he says.
“We’re bailing out the bond holders, who knew what they were doing when they bought the bonds,” Berry says.
But with the landfill in receivership, the decision to impose the fee may not be up to the board. The final decision may be up to the court.
“What’s going to be interesting is does the court determine that they have the power to force us to do that?” says Pendergrass.
The board decided to take no action on imposing the fee at Thursday’s meeting.