Council considers landfill’s futureSuperior’s landfill is in trouble financially. The enterprise fund is running a deficit as the city attempts to expand the operation.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s landfill is in trouble financially.
The enterprise fund is running a deficit as the city attempts to expand the operation.
Finance Director Jean Vito reported a deficit of about $200,000 to the council in January.
Superior’s City Council begins exploring options for making the city landfill solvent again after having a consultant review the operation.
The city is facing high construction costs for expanding the facility after a berm collapsed during construction of a new cell and a deficit in its operating budget.
That’s in spite of running an operation that exceeds industry standards for efficiency, according to Robert Larsen, professor and director of the Government Partnerships Program at Texas State University-San Marcos.
Larsen, who earned his doctorate in geography at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, reviewed the operation and discussed the issue with city public works and finance staff to learn more about the problems at the landfill.
In a written conclusion of the operation, Larsen identified several possible solutions that could bring the city enterprise back to solvency, including addressing the state’s “inordinately high” tipping fees, which the state Legislature increased from $6 per ton to $13 per ton in 2009, and shifting funding from the city’s taxpayer-supported general fund to a user-based fee, in addition to expanding service to businesses and commercial operations.
Larsen called the general fund transfers, which only covers a fraction of the operating costs, “archaic.”
“To become solvent in your operations, the General Fund transfers should be discontinued while being replaced by a monthly user fee, which is the current and traditional fiscal mechanism for funding this type of operation,” Larsen wrote in his summary.
Based on the landfill’s financial needs, Larsen suggested an initial fee of $20 per month per household.
Larsen also recommended the city evaluate its relationship with the University of Wisconsin-Superior to ensure fair compensation for solid waste services.
“Where institutions of higher education are provided solid waste services by the cities in which they are located, one often finds they do not carry their fair share of the costs of those services,” Larsen stated.
Larsen also suggested that the city re-evaluate the service it provides to include commercial, multi-family and industrial clients, which are typically less costly and more profitable in term of user fees, and develop a comprehensive waste management plan.
Other suggestions included modifications to the city’s permits that would allow the use of more airspace for waste management and the depth of landfill trenches to provide cost savings.
Larsen also noted that city equipment and skill of its operations are achieving “enviable” compaction ratios, which exceed industry standards and extends the life-cycle of the landfill and lowers costs.
A closed session meeting was scheduled two weeks ago to discuss possible solutions, which included the potential sale of the landfill, but that meeting was canceled.
Larsen cautioned in his May 28 memo that short-term solutions such as privatizing the landfill could have “dire long-term consequences.”
The council discusses its options during its public committee of the whole meeting following Tuesday's regular council meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Room 201 of the Government Center.
The goal of Tuesday night’s presentation to the council is to educate councilors on the options, according to Mayor Bruce Hagen.