Landfill Management

As mentioned above, Ann Arbor's landfill mis-management will cost the taxpayers a substantial portion of a $28 million environmental bond issue. While governments across the country explore recycling and waste-to-energy alternatives, landfills remain the primary form of solid waste disposal. The 1988 ICMA study indicates 25% of local governments have contracted solid waste disposal. The LGC "expected savings range" for privatization of this service is the same as that for solid waste collection – 22 to 30%. In addition to operating cost savings, Fiscal Watchdog reports that privately operated landfills are more apt to adhere to strict environmental guidelines:

" regard to the issue of quality, there is reason to suspect that the private sector may be providing even more environmentally safe waste disposal. According to solid waste expert E.S. Savas, chairman of the department of management at CUNY's Baruch College, public landfills are often treated more leniently by state environmental agencies because they are perceived as 'public interest' entities; while private firms owning and operating landfills are held to stricter account. Savas declares that 'the private sector is more responsive to government guidelines requiring environmentally safe landfills.' In addition, the experience of many jurisdictions in finally turning to private contractors to meet stringent EPA water treatment standards would support Savas' observation that 'public agencies operating landfills are generally unable to adopt rapidly changing technologies as quickly as private companies operating landfills.'" [13]

This year, the City of Ann Arbor has budgeted $1.270 million for landfill operation and construction, but what portion of that money is actually being spent for that purpose is unclear. Due to the overfill and delayed DNR approval for expansion, the Solid Waste Department estimates that currently (mid-October), one-half of the garbage collected by the City is being dumped at the BFI dump; that number is expected to reach 90% by January of 1991. Over the four fiscal years 1986 to 1989, an annual average $1.6 million was expended on landfill operations and construction. Applying the procedure used above with refuse collection to estimate what portion of "administration" belongs to landfill operation bumps the $1.3 million up to $1.702 million. Based on the LGC savings range, Ann Arbor could potentially save $374,000 to $511,000 annually, plus avoid a future multi-million dollar capping/clean-up effort like the one the City is currently planning to tackle.