We just experienced an emotional reaction to the Back the Blue Act and its by-products that increased Lee County Sheriff’s salaries by 45% resulting in a general 10% increase for all staff County.
Supervisory Chairman Matt Pflug said he would never support a 45% pay raise for anyone, and he didn’t. He voted against with supervisor Ron Fedler.
So I was a little surprised last week when supervisors granted about seven minutes at the request of Great River Regional Waste Authority director Austin Banks for an extra $90,000 a year, an increase of about 250%.
Pflug said if rates haven’t been raised in more than 15 years, which Banks said they have, then we should think about it.
Banks briefed the board on the landfill’s plans for additional landfill cells and a possible methane capture system as something the landfill needs to financially prepare for.
But it struck me as a little odd that it didn’t appear that the supervisors looked at the discharge’s books, investments, financial security, or anything else before agreeing to a 250% raise. And the county does not pass this cost on to unincorporated households. They just pay it out of the budget.
This was an annual cost of $54,000 to the county under its Integrated Waste Management Services contract where the landfill assesses a $1 per household charge to government agencies. Cities like Fort Madison, West Point and others also pay the fees, but in most cases they pass them on to residents through utility bills.
These fees go from $1 per household to $2.50 per household.
We don’t know how this increase isn’t signified with a little more scrutiny by County et.al. I attended three meetings, the supervisors, the city of Fort Madison and the city of West Point and only the West Point officials questioned the increase and they did so gently.
It almost makes me think I’m just missing something. I think that would be the best explanation, but I’m not yet convinced that it is.
Can we safely assume that if former manager Wade Hamm had felt that a pay rise over the past 15 years was necessary, even prudent, he would have asked for it? It seems that very few are hesitant to lobby for additional funds these days.
I haven’t seen the books either, but I guess since there were no reports from the dump office that things were getting dark, things aren’t dark.
That’s a 250% increase and we barely blink an eye. Yet a 45% increase for our most precious resource – our people, is being strongly opposed at the county level. I’m concerned about the optics of that. What does this still say about our people, when garbage gets a 250% increase and people have to fight for 45%.
Sure, employee raises make up a bigger chunk of the county’s budget, but that’s no excuse that no one is asking about this raise request. We were doing. We sit with the banks on Wednesday to discuss why the increase is needed and the financial situation of GRRWA. We also want to know what the projected future costs for increased capacity and EPA regulations look like.
We believe the landfill is a critical infrastructure need for the county. We’re not saying it’s not important to maintain an efficient landfill operation. This is clearly the case, but perhaps officials should ask to see the financial picture instead of accepting it without debate.
Banks said the landfill will need to build at least two more cells before 2030 on top of the one just completed, which will add about 18 years of space to the site with the three new cells. He said the county may also have to incorporate a methane capture system in 2025 due to EPA limits on landfill methane production.
So there could be legitimate reasons for asking for the increase. But shouldn’t we take a closer look at this financial situation instead of taking a five-minute question-and-answer session with county officials as due diligence.
There are methane capture options that could help offset the costs of this new infrastructure, but either way there will be an associated cost.
Putting together numbers from communities in the area, including Donnellson, Montrose, Keokuk, Fort Madison and West Point, it will likely generate over $1 million over the next five years and well over $1 million over the next eight. coming years. Lee County alone will pay $450,000 over the next five years.
Fort Madison said it has more than 4,000 homes in the city, which will bring their annual contract with GRRWA to more than $10,000 per month from the previous amount. Assuming Keokuk is comparable to Fort Madison, that’s an additional $150,000 per year combined. At five years, that’s $750,000, and with the county’s $450,000, you get $1.2 million, not counting the small incorporated communities in the county.
We defer to their experience and knowledge of cell building as to the cost of developing these cells, and perhaps an increase in revenue is needed to keep the landfill on track to continue operating with success.
The EPA’s methane regulations will definitely cost more money to landfill, but that still doesn’t change the question of why no one is investigating whether such an increase is warranted. Landfill officials have talked about using methane to power landfill equipment or even possibly selling it. Worst case scenario, they flare it out, which is proper mitigation for the escaping gas.
Whether or not the increase is justified does not mean that no one is looking deeper into the need. Could it be phased in to reduce the burden on taxpayers? Don’t we owe it to the taxpayers to at least take a look before approving the increase as if it were a boilerplate resolution?
The other question revolves around whether there is an option to decline the raise under the contract or not. There doesn’t appear to be any, but further dialogue on the real need for the increase could create discussion within the discharge board to phase in the increases with a target date for the next cell construction or the one after. Something based on need.
If the need is there, let’s talk about it. If not… what do we do? I guess that’s beside the point.