By ZEINAB NAJM
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW — The city’s approved resolution to place an advisory question regarding the operation capacity within the existing landfill did not meet the deadline to appear on the November general election ballot.
During an Aug. 9 study session, the City Council discussed the option to offset the potential loss of revenue at the Riverview Land Preserve if it were to close. The council unanimously passed the resolution, but because the vote took place at a study session and not meeting it was not official.
The county’s deadline to add the question’s ballot language to the Nov. 2 ballot was by 4 p.m. Aug. 10. Mayor Andrew Swift called a special council meeting for noon Aug. 11 where the council voted again to approve the language, but the Wayne County Clerk did not accept the city’s application for the advisory question.
This move by the council comes after the Wayne County Solid Wast Planning Division and Facility Inclusion Committee voted to hold off on approving the expansion of the landfill following a lengthy discussion and consideration of public input.
During the more than three-hour meeting Aug. 2, committee members heard a presentation from city officials as well as public concerns and comments from Downriver elected officials.
Wayne County Environmental Services Division Director Patrick Cullen listed multiple items in a memo that Riverview would have to address before the county would consider the plan again.
The city will now have time to work on a revised plan application for the expansion. If submitted, an additional notification to all potential affected parties along with a 30-day comment period is required as part of the process. Another meeting will be held by the committee for approval or denial two weeks after the public comment period ends.
Staff of the Wayne County Department of Public Services’ Environmental Services Division completed a review of the application which would expand the landfill eastward on about 45 acres of city-owned golf course property.
“ESD staff finds that the Riverview Land Preserve Cell 8 expansion is not consistent with the WCSWMP as proposed and recommends that the FIC requests the applicant submit a revised proposal that adequately addresses the concerns raised by Wayne County and the potentially affected parties,” the county’s memo said.
At the Aug. 9 study session, City Manager Douglas Drysdale briefly went over a financial plan that was developed and presented to the city council in January 2019 and discussed at the study session in February 2019.
“The land preserve provides approximately $3.5 million in operating transfers for city services, the bulk of that about $2.6 million goes to the general fund, about $350,000 — at the time — was going to the rubbish fund; and another $500,000 to capital improvements and equipments which help maintain our buildings and parks,” he said. “Under the 2018 taxable value, it was about 11.5 mills and is still roughly about 11 mills.
Updated financial options were presented by Drysdale.
“Under our taxes, our general operating millage for the city is about 16.2 mills, .7 of that is given to the road funds so we can improve streets,” he said. “Another .8 is given to the library for their operations. So, one thing we can do is take those millages and put them back into the general fund. That would provide approximately $600,000 of revenue back into the general fund. The offset of that, of course, is fewer road repairs and no more library.”
With the rubbish fund, the city is allowed to levy a millage by law to the residents for trash collection, but the city has always paid for that out of the land preserve funds. Drysdale said that levy would be approximately 1.3 to 1.4 mills that would be added to the tax bills in today’s dollars.
“When the landfill closes, the waste will have to be hauled away some place further and we will have to pay the disposal costs,” he said. “Our best guess is that 1.3 mills will jump up to 2 mills that will be charged to the residents.”
He added, “at the time, we talked about a public safety millage since then we have gotten approval for a 10-year millage for the Fire Department and that was just to hire eight full time employees and not to increase and offset some of this loss in revenue.”
Another option was renewable gas revenues.
“We have a plant we are working with a couple developers to take the gas from our landfill and run it through a system that will cleanse it, scrub it and be able to put it back into the system as renewable gas with natural gas,” Drysdale said. “We also talked about residential development, currently there are three areas that we own property — where single homes can be built with taxable value to provide property tax revenue.”
The RLP is at 20863 Grange Road but the landfill expansion site is along King Road.
According to a RLP summary release, the current attempt to expand the landfill is not the first one, as it has been rejected prior. More than 30 people are employed by the RLP.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])