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Published: 12/21/2005

Landfill settles late-fee dust-up

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - The owner of the Evergreen Landfill has agreed to pay Wood County $200,000 to settle a dispute over the late payment of fees for solid waste hauled to the landfill.

The county commissioners yesterday signed an agreement with Waste Management of Ohio Inc. that calls for the payment to be made within 30 days and releases Waste Management from any further liability in the case.

In December, 2003, Waste Management informed county officials that its new district manager had discovered that between 1999 and September, 2003, all open-top, roll-off loads from the company's Northwest Ohio Hauling Division had been automatically coded as construction and demolition debris, regardless of what was inside.

Construction and demolition debris is not considered solid waste and therefore is not subject to state, county, and local taxes charged on every ton of solid waste generated or disposed of.

After the discovery of its error, Waste Management conducted an internal audit that concluded it had not paid those taxes on nearly 200,000 tons of waste trucked to the Evergreen Landfill on Wales Road. In April, 2004, it wrote checks totaling more than $1.1 million to cover the unpaid fees to the affected jurisdictions, including $430,465 to Wood County.

County officials maintained the company still was responsible for penalty fees associated with the late payment.

In October, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced it had reached a settlement with Waste Management through which the company paid $122,144 in late fees to the state.

Kathy Trent, spokesman for Waste Management of Ohio, said the company maintains that it paid the solid waste fees promptly after discovering the error.

"Today's settlement is just resolving any disagreement so that Waste Management and the county can put that behind them," she said.

Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown declined to discuss the county's agreement, but referred questions to Ray Fischer, Wood County prosecutor.

Mr. Fischer could not be reached for comment.

Ken Rieman, director of the Wood County Solid Waste District, had not seen the agreement but was pleased to hear one had been reached after a nearly two-year legal battle.

"I'm glad there's a settlement," Mr. Rieman said. "I always felt they needed to pay a penalty."

The waste district had spent approximately $42,000 in attorney fees related to the payment issue.



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