Marquette Township to request help in solid waste concerns

MARQUETTE — Marquette Township officials plan to discuss concerns about the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority with other local municipal leaders during an upcoming Marquette County Township Association meeting.

The Marquette Township Board unanimously approved a letter to the 19-member MCTA drafted by Township Supervisor Lyn Durant during a recent regular township board meeting. The letter touches on several recent issues with the MCSWMA.

In the letter, the Marquette Township Board requests that the MCTA coordinate a joint meeting between the MCSWMA board and its constituent municipalities in the next couple of months.

Of the seven-member MCSWMA board, three members are appointed by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners to staggered 3-year terms; two members are appointed by the City of Marquette; one is an authority appointment; and one representative is from Sands Township, who also acts as the chairperson, according to the Marquette County website.

The MCSWMA board represents 22 constituent municipalities consisting of 19 townships and three cities in Marquette County.

“We’re part of this, and we have no say,” Durant told the board during the meeting. “Even the (Iron Ore) Heritage Trail — we have a representative on that authority board. We have no say with this group and this is, you know, number five or six of some of the crazy things that have happened in the last two or three years. I want to know what is happening. I think we need to continue this.”

The letter highlights several “controversial issues” the MCSWMA has “implemented in the name of its constituent municipalities.”

The issues include a protracted legal battle over whether the MCSWMA board had the authority to remove Marquette County as the 23rd constituent municipality.

“You might remember that Sands Township, a partner in the landfill with our Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority, and City of Marquette spent nearly three years in an attorney-involved set of issues with the Authority,” Durant’s letter states in part. “At the same time, questions arose as to a possible conflict of interest involving the Authority’s attorney, a seated Marquette County Commissioner.”

Durant said while the county’s status with the MCSWMA has been redefined, County Commissioner Bill Nordeen is still working as the authority’s legal counsel.

Another issue detailed in the Durant’s letter is the cessation of a 75-cent per-ton contribution to the Perpetual Care Trust Account by MCSWMA due to the fund’s combined accounts reaching nearly $3 million.

Instead, the 75-cent-per-ton has been allocated to 5-year capital funds, according to information from the March 21 MCSWMA board meeting.

The authority is required by the State of Michigan under Act 641 of the Public Acts of 1978, “to establish and maintain a Perpetual Care Fund, to be used exclusively for closure, monitoring and maintenance of the landfill,” the authority’s 2016 audit states.

In her letter, Durant questions whether the 22 municipalities represented by the authority will gain any cost benefit from the situation.

“Since the (Perpetual Care) fund is now apparently self-sustaining,” the letter states, “it would seem the constituent municipalities will also not need to contribute and tipping fees will not need to increase as was previously stated by them.”

The last increase in tipping fees occurred on July 1, 2017, rising from $45.50 per ton to $47.50 per ton.

Durant also expressed concerns about glass recycling at the MCSWMA facility.

“As you are aware, it was recently announced that our MCSWMA is not now, and has not been, recycling glass,” Durant’s letter states. “Apparently this has been the case for at least six years yet the Authority has specifically stated in news articles and minutes that they have been recycling it.”

Each township has a “serious interest in the financial and physical success and continuation of the landfill,” Durant said, and each municipality has to take an active interest in that future.

“A big part of that is being knowledgeable as to its operations,” she said.

Marquette Township Board Trustee John Markes said if nothing else, the letter itself sets a “historical benchmark.”

“It will indicate that we are laying down the gauntlet and saying — this is what we think should be happening, this is who we want to go and represent us and have conversation with these folks,” Markes said. “Most of us at one time or another have been to these meetings, and we are as disheartened as you are about the activity and the adaptability of this board that we have to deal with.”