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Editorial: Ex-director shined as steward of waste district

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The Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District’s director has retired after nearly a quarter-century of service. To our benefit, he left the organization in solid shape.

Such a short summary is an understatement about what Jim Murray accomplished in his 24 years heading the district.

He steered it through political turbulence and survived backlash, oversaw the creation of a second county landfill and established programming that has distinguished the Bartholomew County district from others around Indiana.

Murray took over the former Solid Waste Authority in July 1990. That was a time when efforts to secure a new landfill were beginning. It became a hot-button political issue, with battles over costs and locations.

The following year, the disposal authority for the first time started charging gate fees — $20 per ton — at the former Petersville landfill. Manufacturers had never been charged for the amount of refuse they placed in the landfill.

And in 1994, the Bartholomew County Council approved a solid waste disposal tax of 18 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

The challenges in Murray’s early years could have driven him away. Fortunately, he stayed and oversaw projects that significantly improved the solid waste district in the ensuing decades.

Most notably, he oversaw construction of a new landfill on County Road 450S, which began in 1998. Murray also developed a yard-waste management program which keeps 10,000 to 15,000 tons of leaves, grass, garden waste and tree trimmings out of the landfill each year. The introduction of a cardboard-reduction program involving 250 businesses has significantly decreased landfill volume and generated a small profit.

The benefit of the programs is that the county landfill still has more than 40 years of capacity remaining.

These accomplishments alone are impressive. But, one more achievement makes Murray’s stewardship of the district truly stand out. The county’s solid waste district is the only one in the state that maintains programs in all four major areas: waste reduction, material reuse, recycling and proper disposal.

The programs interrelate and direct no-longer needed material for the best possible and most environmentally responsible outcome.

Murray’s retirement leaves big shoes to fill, but we’re better off with him having worked in them all these years.

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