Home News Wisconsin County Turns Down Debris Recycling Offer

Wisconsin County Turns Down Debris Recycling Offer

Legislation & Regulations, Additional Commodities

Despite decision, board hopes to reintroduce offer with modifications.

October 25, 2004

Sauk County, Wis., will not likely be involved in recycling anytime soon. A recent vote by Saulk County Board members declined an offer from a company to recycle construction materials at the local landfill.


Many supervisors said they support recycling in general, but some were concerned a recycling contract would open the door for lawsuits against the county.


Zech Forest Products of Baraboo would have operated recycling equipment at the landfill, processing debris to be used in road-building and other projects. The contract called for Zech to pay Sauk County $2 per ton of recycled material. The board defeated the resolution with a 15-15 vote. A majority is required to pass a resolution.


Committee chairperson Lowell Haugen said they will likely re-word the resolution, and bring Zech and county landfill officials to a future board meeting to better explain the proposal.


"It will eventually pass, but there will be a change," Haugen said. "We have to detail it more so (the board) understands what we're doing."


Committee member Robert Cassity said Sauk County must lead the way in recycling efforts.


"The most noble role in any government is to do those things that better society that are not sustainable in the free market, and recycling fits this exactly," Cassity said. "This is just the start."


Despite general support for recycling, a major point of contention was the term of the contract - five years - and a termination clause which would presumably give the county the option to cancel the contract at any time, for any reason.


Some supervisors said the county would likely get out of the contract after the landfill closes as expected early next year, and the county's ability to opt out of the contract at any time was a positive. Committee member Don Stevens said he signed the proposal because of the "out" clause.


However, Sauk County Corporation Counsel Todd Liebmann said if the board intended to get out of the contract within a few months, the wording of the contract left open the possibility the county may face lawsuits if it quickly opted out.


Committee member Marty Krueger said Zech Products requested a longer contract to help secure funding, and the committee was led to believe the contract was acceptable.


"The reason for the five-year term was his request is this is a substantial investment in equipment," Krueger said. "The reason the committee unanimously approved it was because (Liebmann) was comfortable with the contract, and now we're not."


"I was comfortable with the contract as a five-year term," Liebmann responded. "I'm not comfortable saying we can terminate it next month...It's dangerous to go into a contract like this and say you can absolutely pull the plug on it at any time by just giving the guy notice."


County Board Chairperson Bill Wenzel said he supports the idea of county involvement in recycling, but this was not the right way to start.


"I support recycling, and I think everybody should do it," Wenzel said. "It looks like an issue the county could tackle. The part that bothered me was the potential liability for the county."


Wenzel, who talked from his cell phone from a construction job, said he is concerned about contamination at the site, and the ensuing problems that could cause the county.


"I work construction all the time, and I know what goes on," Wenzel said. "Guys are in a hurry, and there is the likelihood of getting some hazardous material or other contamination into the site. All you have to do is get some lead-based paint or treated wood, and then you have a problem."


He said the bottom line was risk versus reward.


"How much potential cost are we going to have for $2 a ton?" Wenzel asked. "I'm unenthused about it." Baraboo (Wisconsin) News Republic



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