County calling all audtiors

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Marshall County Commissioner Don Ledford, chairman of the county solid waste committee, issues a symbolic request for proposals from auditors and engineering firms that could audit money and solid waste at Cedar Ridge Landfill.

A request for proposals is being issued this week by Marshall County's Office of Accounts and Budget for engineers and accountants to compete for a contract that's to have trash and money audited.

An audit of Cedar Ridge Landfill should be conducted to make sure the county is getting the host fee it deserves under a contract with Waste Management Inc. The so-called RFP is being issued in accordance with directions from two committees of the County Commission.

County Accounts and Budget Director Freda Terry told the commissioners' Budget Committee on Thursday that she'd drafted a contract for the job after consulting Jeff Bailey, a regional audit manager with the Comptroller of the State Treasury.

Budget Committee members unanimously supported the proposed audit based on a recommendation from the county's Solid Waste Committee. The idea of conducting an audit occurred to Commissioner Don Ledford as he reviewed documents from engineering companies that want to help Marshall County prepare to deal with garbage disposal when Cedar Ridge Landfill is full.

Waste Management is waiting for state decisions on its application to close a waterway where it would deposit garbage to extend the lifetime of the landfill by about five years. Without state permission, the landfill could be full in less than a year. Then, it must start a closure process leading to perpetual care.

Like other landfills, Cedar Ridge pays a host fee to the county and the idea of auditing deliveries and payments was seen by Commissioner Larry McKnight as "just good business."

The host fee paid by Waste Management to Marshall County has been controversial, partly because it's complicated and not totally understood by the general public which strongly opposed Waste Management's now-abandoned plan for a landfill at Cornersville.

County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas provided the following explanation on how the landfill company pays the county and what's done with the money.

"Every time a truck pulls up onto the scales at Cedar Ridge Landfill, Marshall County gets $1.18 per ton," Thomas said of a dollar amount that has been adjusted over the years in accordance with terms of a contract.

"On average ... that's equated to approximately $30,000 a month," Thomas said of the host fee payments that have been $360,000 annually.

"Recently, due to expansion issues," Thomas said of uncertainties on whether a state permit will be issued for a new dumping ground at Cedar Ridge, "they have cut back on tonnages and the last three or four checks have probably averaged $13,000 a month."

The amount of those checks and the volume of solid waste deposited at Cedar Ridge are two basic targets of the audit. The county has some of the numbers. The state has other records.

The host fee revenue is deposited into the county's Solid Waste Fund to operate the convenience centers and the county's recycling program, Thomas said.

However, half the money received by the county in host fees from Waste Management is paid to the company because of a contract with the county for Waste Management to operate the convenience centers where residents can take their household trash and other wastes.

"One good thing about the way the contract was written," Thomas said, "Even though the dollar amount has gone down, they still have to run our centers" regardless of the company's costs and the declining volume of deposits that generate host fees.

Meanwhile, the county operates the recycling program at the convenience centers.