Hearing to address plan to cut inspection funding

Published: Fri, October 12, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By William K. Alcorn



A public hearing is set Tuesday on a draft plan for the Mahoning County Solid Waste Management District that would cut funding for the current level of landfill inspections and free testing of well water around the county’s landfills by 25 percent over time.

The hearing, to be conducted by the district, will be from 9 a.m. to noon in the Covelli Centre’s community room.

Patricia Sweeney, health commissioner of the county health board, said the SWMD plan for 2015-2023 sets forth a drastic cut for public health while providing across-the-board increases for recycling initiatives.

The plan decreases the county health board share of tipping-fee revenues, which provides Green Team funding, from $400,000 to $300,000 beginning in 2015.

The health board received $480,000 two years ago for landfill inspections and well-water testing, Sweeney said.

Sweeney said the cut is based on projected SWMD decreasing revenues as less solid waste is placed in landfills.

Just two of the county’s landfills are active.

“I respect the conservative estimate of revenues,” said Sweeney, who prefers across-the-board program funding cuts if needed. “Cutting funding to the health department appears to violate one of SWMD’s prime goals of the health and safety of county residents.”

Adding weight to Sweeney’s argument are resolutions from numerous township trustee boards opposing health department cuts and a resolution unanimously passed by the Mahoning County Township Association directing its representative on the SWMD’s Policy Committee to vote “no” if the final plan does not restore funding to the county health board and to the road-maintenance fund.

Mari Wren Petrony, assistant director of the SWMD, said the proposed draft plan, required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency every five years, is subject to change.

Testimony from the public hearing from emails and letters will be taken into consideration by the SWMD’s Policy Committee before it is placed before all county political subdivisions. Passage of the final plan requires approval from political subdivisions representing at least 60 percent of the county’s population.

Wren Petrony said cuts were made to health department funding for a couple of basic reasons.

First, she said, while the health department activities are an allowable use for tipping fees, they are not a mandated use as is recycling.

Also, she added, the thought is after seeing the cost of landfill inspection and well-water testing is lower in comparable solid waste management districts, those tests and inspections could be done more efficiently and less costly in Mahoning.

“We believe in monitoring landfills but we also have to comply with OEPA mandates which deal with recycling,” she said.

The active landfills are less of a risk than those that are closed, she added. The technology was not available and the requirements less stringent when the older landfills were built. There has to be monitoring of them, she said.

“Ultimately, the decision goes to the policy committee, which must make a recommendation by Oct. 30. We need to look at compromise,” Wren Petrony added.

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