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Editorial: Difficult questions needed for landfill

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Questions posed by Mayor Kristen Brown and City Council member Frank Miller to the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management Board about the awarding of contracts in the operation of the county’s landfill might have caused some discomfort, but they certainly deserve serious consideration.

The two city officials who serve on the waste district board echoed themes Brown has struck before in other matters relating to government interaction with private sector entities.

In this instance the mayor is urging the district to take a hard look at the 15-year arrangement the district has had with Rumpke of Indiana for operating the landfill.

The contract comes up for renewal this year and the mayor has urged the group to utilize a competitive bidding process in determining the future management team.

The discussion of the Rumpke contract was just one of the items on the agenda in which city officials asked for more information and a clearer understanding of the process. Brown and Miller also questioned the request to approve the purchase of a $268,000 combination bulldozer/loader for the landfill from an Indianapolis-based dealer.

While not necessarily a challenge to the status quo, these questions can be integral to a fresh approach by government officials in how they conduct business and how that in turn relates to making the process easier for the public to understand.

For instance, Mayor Brown expressed doubts about whether the district’s mandate to reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill squares with the fee structure which seems to be an incentive for users to keep the number of loads they bring to the landfill high.

She suggested that an increase in those fees might help pay for countywide curbside recycling and also serve as an incentive for others not to bring so many loads to the landfill.

The questions raised at the most recent meeting of the district board might not necessarily result in any immediate operational changes but they have provided an opportunity to give the public better access to information about the operations of an important government entity.

One important follow-up to this discussion would be to open the process for selecting the management of the landfill to competitive bidding.

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