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Moretown Select Board continues work on MLI host-town agreement

At a special meeting on Monday, July 29, the Moretown Select Board approved a motion to submit an updated draft of its host-town agreement with Moretown Landfill to its lawyer for consideration.

The current host-town agreement will expire on August 9 and while the Route 2 facility was ordered by the state environmental court to cease operating as of July 15, Moretown Landfill has stated that it plans to apply for a separate permit to construct a fourth trash cell on site.

The landfill has until December 31 to submit a permit application for Cell 4 and, in the meantime, Moretown is working on rewriting its host-town agreement with the facility should the permit be approved. On June 3, the select board elected to form a committee to rewrite the agreement, because "I just don't think we have enough time at these meetings," select board chair Tom Martin said.

While the updated host-town agreement is currently confidential, in June, Martin said that it could include "considerable changes" to account for the environmental, health and accountability concerns that led the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to cite Moretown Landfill for several violations last year and deny recertification of two of its trash cells in March.

At last Monday's meeting, host-town agreement committee member and select board member Michelle Beard, along with fellow committee members John Siegel and Martha Douglass, presented an updated draft of the host-town agreement to the rest of the board for their approval before passing it along to Moretown's attorney.

Historically, 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, the Route 2 facility's monetary contribution to the town will be less.

In June, 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. Martin said that the town had only received $47,503 to date in tipping fees.

In the letter, Martin asked that Advanced Disposal, the company that owns Moretown Landfill, pay the town $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.

In a July 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.

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.

Sowatzka said that according to 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."

Attorney Patrick Bernal responded on behalf of the town. 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.

Bernal pointed out that "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 has 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.

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