Landfill fees give Inver Grove Heights ace in hole

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2011 - 9:38 PM

So-called host fees paid to Inver Grove Heights for taking in trash give the city some financial flexibility.

Certainly there are drawbacks to having waste sites in town, but in Inver Grove Heights, three landfills turn trash into cash for the city budget.

The fees paid to the city by the landfills -- totaling $2 million this year -- provide a financial cushion most cities do not have. The city plans to use $500,000 from its "host community" fund to hold down taxes in 2012.

Using host fees will allow the city to decrease its tax levy for 2012 slightly, even though property values have fallen, said City Manager Joe Lynch.

"We are very fortunate to have it as a revenue source at a time when there are bills to pay that we would not otherwise be able to pay," Lynch said.

Inver Grove Heights will hold its public truth-in-taxation hearing Monday night at City Hall in advance of discussing and adopting its 2012 budget. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 8150 Barbara Av.

The city has collected fees from private landfills since 1994. It has one garbage dump, the Pine Bend Sanitary Landfill at 2495 E. 117th St., and two landfills for construction and demolition debris: the SKB Rich Valley Landfill, at 2409 E. 117th St., and Dawn Way Landfill, at 5965 Dawn Way.

At the beginning of 2011, the city's host fund totaled $4.5 million. By the end of the year, the fees will have generated $2 million more. At some point the landfills may fill up and stop paying fees, but the city does not expect them to close within the next five years.

City Council members sometimes disagree about how the host fees should be spent but, in general, the city does tries not to use them for basic operating expenses, Lynch said.

The city draws $300,000 a year from the fund to pay off the construction of Inver Wood Golf Course. Other uses include $300,000 to subsidize the operation of the city's community center and $1,000 annually for the city band.

As handy as it is to have an extra source of money, being host community to landfills has more negatives than positives, said Community Development Director Tom Link.

"They sometimes can mean a lot of heavy truck traffic, they can mean a lot of noise, they can mean a lot of dust," Link said.

If they are not run properly, they can contaminate groundwater or send off odor -- although the city has not received odor complaints, Link said.

The biggest drawback is that once a landfill is closed, "you can't use it for anything else," and it discourages quality development nearby, Link said. The loss of the land and the loss of future potential for development forms the basis for the fees, he said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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