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Moretown Landfill and town dispute payment terms outlined in host-town agreement

Historically, the town of Moretown has received about $500,000 annually in tipping fees from Moretown Landfill. This year, following Moretown Landfill's reduction in trash intake, temporary closure and now permanent shutdown by the state, the Route 2 facility's monetary contribution to the town will be less. Exactly how much less, however, has yet to be determined.

On June 11, Moretown Select Board chair Tom Martin wrote to Moretown Landfill general manager Mike DiMaggio regarding tipping fees due to the town each year in the minimum amount of $350,000, per the terms of the host-town agreement. "As of today, we have only received $47,503 toward that $350,000," Martin wrote. "This is making it difficult for the town to pay its lawful expenses without borrowing funds."

In the letter, Martin asked that Advanced Disposal, the company that owns Moretown Landfill, pay the town of Moretown $175,000 toward the $350,000 minimum by June 30, 2013, and pay $20,000 each month thereafter, with the remainder of the unpaid balance due December 30, 2013.

Already, the decrease in tipping fees from $500,000 to $350,000 will have "a huge negative impact" on the town's municipal tax rate, Martin wrote, and the select board announced at its meeting on Monday, July 15, that it has been waiting to set that rate until it receives confirmation of the landfill's contribution.

In a July 2 response to Martin's letter, Adam G. Sowatzka, an attorney representing Moretown Landfill, contested the town's tipping fee claims, arguing that it has already paid $202,519.06 towards the minimum $350,000 required this year, which Sowatzka said runs from August 9, 2012, to August 9, 2013. "Given the amount already paid to date since August 9, 2012, at most MLI owes the town $147,480.94," Sowatzka wrote.

However, Moretown Landfill was closed for several weeks after the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) denied recertification of two of its trash cells and before the facility received permission to stay open during their appeal of the ANR's decision, Sowatzka wrote. And, as a result of a settlement reached between the landfill of the state, the landfill closed again—this time permanently—on July 15.

"According to paragraphs 3(c) and (d) of the original agreement," Sowatzka wrote, referencing the host-town agreement, "if the facility is closed due [to] a revocation or suspension of any regulatory approval, MLI's obligations to the town are reduced." Based on Sowatzka's calculations, Moretown Landfill "would only owe the town $119,480.94."

This time, attorney Patrick Bernal responded on behalf of the town of Moretown in a letter dated Thursday, July 11. According to Bernal, the host-town agreement states that Moretown Landfill's obligations to the town are reduced only "if the landfill is closed due to circumstances beyond [MLI's] control, which result in the revocation or suspension of any approvals."

"Closure in this case has resulted from MLI's longstanding failure to lawfully operate its facility," Bernal wrote, referencing its past environmental violations and record of odor complaints, which were the reasons Moretown Landfill was denied recertification and ultimately forced to close.

"In sum, because the landfill closure is not due to 'circumstances beyond [MLI]'s control,' MLI is not entitled to any reduction in its contractually obligated payments to the town," Bernal wrote. In fact, "MLI's failure to operate its facility in compliance with state requirements is itself a breach of the Agreement," he wrote.

Lastly, Bernal disputed Moretown Landfill's claim that it's already paid $202,519.06 toward the minimum $350,000, based on a clause in the host-town agreement that states a minimum $350,000 is required "for each year in which the landfill is open at least one day for acceptance of material for disposal." According to Bernal, the payment period for the $350,000 minimum starts on January 2, 2013, not August 9, 2012, as the landfill attests.

"I would ask that you instruct your client to adhere to the payment schedule set forth in Mr. Martin's letter," Bernal wrote in closing. Moretown Landfill has yet to issue a formal response.

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