County hedges on foundation

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December 2, 2015 - 12:00 AM

New information gave Allen County commissioners pause in consideration of their support to the Allen County Community Foundation.
In mid-November Jim Gilpin, Iola banker, proposed commissioners endow $100,000 of idle funds in the foundation, plus another $100,000 in 2016. He pointed out the funds — $1.1 million total — were drawing 1.79 percent interest and could do much better in market-based investments through the foundation, which is managed by a multi-billion-dollar foundation in Kansas City, Mo.
The $1.1 million was set aside to help ensure the county had sufficient resources to manage the landfill. Refuse is contained in large pits called cells, which, when full, require an extensive process to adequately cover and seal. The current cell being used has an expected 13 years of life before it needs to be closed.
Three years ago commissioners learned the county’s financial resources and financial condition were secure enough by Kansas Department of Health and Environment standards to bear such costs and that they no longer needed to set aside the $1.1 million.
Commissioners opted to keep the landfill closure fund within the budget’s framework and it appeared there was sentiment on the parts of commissioners Jerry Daniels and Tom Williams to make the transfer; Commissioner Jim Talkington has been opposed.
Commissioners will decide the issue next Tuesday.
Weighing on their decision will be comments from Iola Administrator Carl Slaugh and Bill King, who retired as director of Public Works four months ago. Mitch Garner, who replaced King, also presented a couple of spread sheets — one on paper recycling and the other on landfill expenses, real and projected.

SLAUGH, when asked if Iola would consider contributing to the foundation, was slow to respond, as he parsed response. “No,” eventually was his answer, in some measure because he doubted the legality of the city, or county, making such an investment.
Slaugh said state law requires local governing bodies to invest idle funds either in a statewide pool or a Kansas bank. With the Kansas City, Mo., foundation managing and investing the local foundation’s money, he suggested it might be illegal.
That caught commissioners off guard, but piqued their interest.
If the funds were invested with the foundation, they would draw a 50 percent match from the Kansas Health Institute, Williams noted, which could be used for environmental or health projects. Beyond the first year, the investment also would draw interest — more than now, Gilpin promised — to be used similarly.
That brought Garner’s information to the table.
He pointed out paper recycling, started as a joint project between Iola Rotary Cub and the Iola Register, would cost the county about $1,000 this year to tow semi-trailers loaded with newspapers and magazines to a firm in Wellsville that recycles the paper for insulation. On some trips the county returns with papier-mâché, for daily cover of trash deposited in the landfill southeast of LaHarpe.
The county spends about $10,000 every three months for the material that’s mixed with water to make a slurry that’s sprayed daily over landfilled trash. Even at that cost it is a savings compared to putting six inches of dirt on a cell late each afternoon.
County support of the volunteers who collect and load paper into the trailers includes the trailers themselves — the county paid about $170,000 since 1998 for five trailers. Another $5,750 has been spent on trailer tires since the drive started in 1998.
Garner also said that if the cell being used for some reason needed to be closed immediately, estimated cost would be $3.7 million, with another $130,000 a year for post-closure care.
That prompted commissioners to look again at the $1.1 million sitting idle.
The county would be able to meet the $3.7 million closure cost because of a nearly $50 million valuation windfall, from construction of the Enbridge pipeline and pumping station near Humboldt. Commissioners took advantage of the additional valuation and included  what essentially is a $2.5 million savings account in their 2016 budget.
About half of the 47.6-acre cell that opened in 2002 remains active.

DISCUSSION has centered somewhat on proceeds of an endowment being used to enhance recycling, taking in metal, plastic, glass, perhaps cardboard, in addition to paper.
King was not encouraging.
“Recycling will never come close to working,” he opined, which caught and held commissioners’ attention, including Talkington, who hasn’t been keen on the idea from the start. King had examined recycling at the landfill years ago and found it financially wanting. “I looked at it hard,” he said.
With landfill use free to residents, and with cells that last 25 years or more, King suggested there wasn’t a compelling need to recycle. “If we were hauling 40, 50 or 100 miles, it might be different,” he said. “We aren’t.”
Williams re-enforced King’s contention: “I called KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) and they couldn’t tell my anywhere (in Kansas) recycling works.”
King also noted  the $1.1 million, with relation and transferability to the landfill, would be handy in the years to come. “You need to look ahead five to 10 years. The compactor will need to be replaced in a  few years at half a million dollars and the bulldozer is getting old,” along with other equipment.

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