Niles City Council supports landfill expansion

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

NILES — One community’s trash is another business’ trade.

The Niles City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of expanding landfill operations at the Southeast Berrien County Landfill during Monday’s council meeting at the City of Niles Fire Department, 1345 E. Main St.

The Southeast Berrien County Landfill, 1540 Mayflower Road, Niles, is operated by the Southeast Berrien County Landfill Authority on behalf of five owner municipalities — Buchanan City, Buchanan Township, Niles City, Niles Charter Township and Bertrand Township. The Authority commissioned a study for the possible expansion of landfill operations to extend the landfill’s useful life and is requesting each owner municipality approve a resolution in support of the study’s recommendations and expansion of landfill operations.
“What this resolution will do is allow us to petition Berrien County and their solid waste advisory plan to reopen the solid waste agreement,” said Southeast Berrien County Landfill Authority representative Tyler Gaines. “Inside of that solid waste agreement is where we can begin a conceptual design and continue to work through our engineering studies to account for that additional airspace in the county’s solid waste plan. That’s when we progress into the state and further conversations.”

The expansion would increase the landfill up to a total footprint of 9.1 million cubic yards and give the landfill an additional 40 years of use. According to Gaines, the most financially feasible option would be to expand the landfill by 4.5 million of those cubic yards, which would give the landfill an additional 27 years of use until its closure. According to Gaines, a post closure fund will be set aside to pay the operating costs 30 years after the landfill is shut down, which is a state-mandated regulation.

Councilmember John DiCostanzo asked Gaines how the city’s ownership share of the landfill benefits the city.

“That’s a really loaded question,” Gaines replied. “I think really just being able to suppress the waste prices. I think having a municipal landfill is beneficial for the residents because we’re able to keep both prices low for residents. If there were to be another larger outfit, you could never promise that, especially with allowing someone who may be a larger scale to come in, they would fill it up and move on to the next facility and that resource may not be available.”

According to DiCostanzo, the city has been blocked by a court order and cannot mandate the haulers in the city to deposit waste at the landfill.

“In my mind, that kind of compromises the value of our own ship,” he said.

“It all comes down to proximity and price,” Gaines said. “If you’re close in nature, and you have a fair price, they’re gonna come and that’s what we do. The majority of all of our waste comes from Berrien County and northern Indiana, just in proximity, so that’s how we’re able to get that material here.”

When asked by DiCostanzo what happens when the landfill is closed in 27 years, Gaines said it would be something the city and the landfill authority would discuss down the road.

“We’re just trying to extend this out as long as we can and to be a resource,” Gaines said.

In other business, the council passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Nick Shelton to execute Master Agreement 2022-0113 and authorizing Shelton and/or City Administrator Rick Huff to sign related Project Authorizations with MDOT for the operation of DART for the period beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2025.

The city is required to sign a Master Agreement, which outlines the terms and conditions related to receiving these funds. A Master Agreement typically covers four to five fiscal years, with the last one approved in September 2016.

When funds are made available to the City under the Master Agreement, a Project Authorization is required to be signed by the city acknowledging the requirements of the utilization of the funds.