A proposal by state legislators to increase landfill tipping fees has started to affect Walworth County's largest landfill and could cost the town of Darien nearly $700,000 a year.
Mike Williams, general manager of Mallard Ridge Landfill, said he lost business last week from Illinois-based ARC Disposal and Recycling, which deposited about half the garbage dumped daily at the site.
The company stopped using Mallard Ridge because of Wisconsin's proposed tipping fee increase, Williams said.
Landfill operators are required to pay the state $5.90 per ton of garbage dumped, but the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance recently OK'd a proposal to increase those tipping fees to $13 per ton.
Williams said Mallard Ridge, in the town of Darien, had been averaging 2,400 tons of waste per day. But since ARC Disposal and Recycling pulled its business, Mallard Ridge is taking in only about 1,300 tons per day.
The proposed tipping fee increase is included in the current version of the state budget as part of an effort to offset Wisconsin's budget shortfall.
"The reality is it doesn't cost me anything," Williams said. "All I do is pass it on to the people who come in here and dump.
"The cost turns back around to the people whose garbage is getting picked up."
The Janesville Gazette was unable to reach ARC Disposal and Recycling for comment on Friday.
Peg Mullow, a spokesperson for Arizona-based Republic Services, which owns ARC, directed the Gazette back to Williams at Mallard Ridge.
Williams said the drop in usage at Mallard Ridge is expected to cost the town of Darien about $700,000 per year.
Mallard Ridge pays the town of Darien a host fee of $2.84 per ton of garbage dumped in the landfill.
Town Chairman Cecil Logterman said the town is in "very good financial shape," but the decrease in income could hamper projects such as adding parks.
The town uses the landfill income for projects, equipment replacement and purchases but doesn't rely on the landfill money for operational expenses.
Logterman said the drop in use at Mallard Ridge could be positive for Darien.
"The landfill will last longer," he said. "That means the waste will still be coming in but not in a great amount.
"Instead of a projected 7 to 10 years before closing, that probably won't happen now. It's probably going to be 15 years now."
Republican Sen. Neal Kedzie, whose district includes Walworth County, said he expects the Legislature will approve the $13-per-ton landfill tipping fees.
Kedzie doesn't approve of the increase.
He said it forces a business that already generates nearly $18 million in surplus a year to bear the weight of Wisconsin's budget shortfall.
"Not only do businesses have to fund a large increase, we as citizens also absorb the extra costs," Kedzie said.
The higher tipping fee could boost Wisconsin's recycling fund surplus from $18 million to about $43 million per year, Kedzie said.
The state Assembly is expected to take up the budget for consideration this week. The Senate is expected to consider it next week.
If approved by both chambers, Gov. Jim Doyle could sign the budget into law by June 30.