The Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District board members didn’t exactly get the answers they wanted Tuesday regarding the role the board has in managing the district.
Boone County Justice of the Peace Fred Woehl, also board chairman, called the meeting to ask questions of Geoffrey Treece, the Little Rock lawyer appointed as the receiver to collect bonded debt from the district.
That plan is the basis for the $18 fee collected from all property and business owners in the district after the board voted to default on bond payments in 2012.
Woehl told the board he would allow Treece to make an opening statement before board members began asking questions.
Treece said he hadn’t prepared any actual opening remarks, but he did say he’s had a cordial relationship with the board so far.
That relationship, he said, will continue to be important in the future because the length of the receivership will have to be extended due to continuing litigation regarding the $18 fee.
“Unfortunately, the receivership is not going away anytime soon because of that,” Treece added. Under the court order, the district is also required to pay Treece’s legal fees regarding the receivership. He told the Daily Times that he bills $300 an hour for service and that the board would reimburse him for the Tuesday meeting.
Woehl said he has been on the board for two years and has been told repeatedly that district director Melinda Caldwell and board lawyer John Verkamp work for the receiver. He said he was told the board has little authority over anything but electronic waste recycling grants — and the receiver even controls those moneys — so there was no need to present a budget. He asked Treece to clarify the board’s authority.
Treece explained that his role is to assess the district’s financial obligations to not only the bondholders, but to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for money it spent to close NABORS landfill. In addition, the district will be responsible for monitoring the landfill after it’s officially closed and turned over from ADEQ. That will include pumping and treating leachate coming from the landfill for years and years to come.
Since the time he was appointed receiver in 2015, he said, he’s been in contact with Caldwell and Verkamp on a reasonably regular basis about issues facing the district.
He said the board continues in its role and he had allowed the board to do its job, although he thought board members understood the district’s financial constraints given legal obligations.
Treece said his reading to the court order gives him all the powers of a receiver. Although he is bound to collect remuneration for bondholders, he’s also charged with reimbursing the state for money spent on the landfill closure and generating revenue for maintaining the landfill in the future.
And costs at the landfill are still a question.
Treece said in short that the order appointing the receiver states the board, the district and all agents of the district will work with and not impede the role of the receiver.
Searcy County Judge Jim Harness asked Treece about a portion of the $18 fee — about $100,000 — that goes back to the district each year. He said he felt that any money the district receives should go to paying off the debt and not other purposes.
Treece explained that taking care of the landfill was initially estimated to be about $84,000 a year. As such, his report to the court recommended the $100,000 to go toward monitoring the landfill.
However, ADEQ has now estimated landfill maintenance will cost about $295,000 a year. He said he has a meeting scheduled with ADEQ to find out why that estimate is so much higher than in the past. It appears the major cost at the landfill will come from pumping and treating leachate, which should actually be going down once the landfill is completely closed.
If those costs will actually be that much higher, it will require additional revenue that will have to come from somewhere. It could be that some would come from ADEQ’s portion of the $18 fee because the district is required to monitor the landfill in order to protect the environment.
In other business, the board adopted a resolution regarding signatures on all checks or legal documents. The resolution requires two of the three executive officers — Woehl as chairman, Harness as vice chairman and Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams as secretary — to sign all checks.
Treece pointed out that the past policy required one signature for checks under $2,500, which had been from the director. Any checks over that required a second signature from the board chairman.
He said his interest was to see the district’s bills paid in a timely manner. Given the location of the officers, it could be difficult to gather two signatures for smaller checks for day-to-day operations of the district.
Still, the board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Solid Waste district director Melinda Caldwell told the Daily Times last week that she would be on a previously scheduled vacation the week of the meeting.