As Elkins City Council and the Randolph County Commission clash this week over who is financially responsible for the Elkins-Randolph County Landfill, documents show that the county and city worked together during the facility's early days, almost four decades ago.
At Monday's City Council meeting, during discussion of a proposed ordinance that would raise sanitation rates to keep the landfill afloat financially, several officials said the County Commission should contribute funds to help the situation.
Councilman Mark Scott said Randolph County should chip in funds because many county residents dumped their waste at the landfill during Free Days.
At Wednesday's County Commission meeting, Commissioner Mike Taylor objected to Scott's remarks.
"For him (Scott) to make a statement like that ... and to put it on the back of the commission is improper on his part," Taylor said. "On the one hand, the city is wanting our help. On the other hand, they're wanting to point fingers.
"I'm not saying that we aren't going to try to help the city, but I don't appreciate reading in the paper that we helped create the problem when we had absolutely nothing to do with it," Taylor said.
Both city and county officials said this week they intend to talk about the issue face-to-face at an upcoming meeting. Although the question of whether Randolph County should be financially responsible for the landfill at this point is debatable, official documents indicate the county worked with the city of Elkins to operate the landfill for a time, beginning in the mid-1970s.
On March 20, 1974, the city of Elkins purchased 109 acres near Norton from the estate of C.E. Hough for the sum of $1 to establish a new landfill. Previously, the city had been leasing 13 acres from the estate.
The deed states, "The land herein conveyed has been strip- or surface-mined." The city agreed to reclaim the property and to "meet and satisfy all existing laws concerning reclamation of strip- or surface-mining property."
The estate reserved the right to "complete strip-, surface-, auger- and deep-mining upon the leased premises" for the next two years. On May 21, 1993, the estate sold the coal rights of the property to the city.
In the year before the property was purchased in 1974, city and county officials met several times to discuss operating the new landfill, documents show.
The minutes from the July 5, 1973, Elkins City Council meeting report that Randolph County officials were interested in sharing "operational costs" of the new landfill with the city, and that county officials said "they will agree to enter into on a per centum basis with the city for the continuing operation of the landfill."
At the Feb. 21, 1974, City Council meeting, however, Mayor James P. Gladkosky reported that county officials were "not receptive to the idea of providing undesignated funds to the city" and that they "suggested that a board for the operation of the landfill be organized" including county and city representatives, according to the minutes.
In 1974, Randolph County provided funds for the operation of the new landfill, and with the city purchased a bulldozer to be used at the facility, records indicate.
On April 18, 1974, Councilman Joe Martin, chairman of the Sanitation Committee, reported that, after meeting with county officials, "initial planning would provide that the city and the county would control and operate the landfill on a joint basis," the minutes say.
Martin reported that county officials "at present, and in accordance with a signed agreement between the city and county, will share to the extent of 50 percent of the total cost of the operation of the sanitary landfill from July 1, 1973." Also, Martin said county officials agree to "share a 50 percent cost of the purchase lot of a new Caterpillar bulldozer for operation at the landfill."
Martin made a motion, seconded by council member Clair Metheny, that the $38,000 bulldozer "be purchased from Beckwith Machinery Company on a costsharing 50-50 basis with" Randolph County. The motion carried unanimously, according to the minutes.
At the May 2, 1974, Council meeting, Martin reported that the county "has provided one half of their share of the cost of operation of the sanitary landfill, as agreed, from July 1, 1973 through March 31, 1974," according to the minutes.
A document detailing an agreement between the city and the county regarding the landfill was filed at the Randolph County Clerk's office. It is unclear whether this is the "signed agreement" Martin referred to at the April 18, 1974, City Council meeting - and, in fact, the filed document is unsigned.
Dated Jan. 11, 1973, the agreement document notes that the city had established a landfill on the 13 acres it was leasing from the Hough estate. "The parties agree that it is to their benefit that both the city and county share in the use of said sanitary landfill," the document reads.
The agreement states that "the parties agree" that "the city and county will share on an equal basis costs necessary to place the sanitary landfill into operation," and "that once said landfill is operable and receiving sanitary waste from both the city and county, the parties will agree upon the extent to which the county shall contribute to the operating costs of said landfill. It is understood that any agreement as to the contribution of the county to the cost of operation of said landfill be on a year-to-year basis, and may be renegotiated annually."
The document states that both parties agreed that the city would "use the landfill for regular collection of garbage and sanitary waste from the residents and business places located in the city of Elkins, and the city agrees to keep separate records and books as to the cost of said collections."
The agreement states that, "Fees charged commercial users for dumping or disposing of waste will be agreed upon by both parties. Fees to be charged to private individuals for casual or irregular dumping of sanitary waste shall be agreed upon by both parties."
The document also says, "Capital expenditures, extraordinary expenses, including the purchase of heavy equipment to be used in the operation of said landfill, must be approved by both parties."
Lastly, the document states, "It is agreed and understood that this agreement shall continue from year to year unless terminated by either party. Either party reserves the right to terminate this agreement at the end of any fiscal year by giving 30 days written notice of termination."
The unsigned document was filed in the county clerk's office on Aug. 16, 1985. It is unclear whether a signed copy of the agreement exists within the city's or county's files.
Based on official documents, it appears Randolph County's involvement with the landfill continued for some time after the facility opened.
Minutes taken during the Sept. 13, 1976, County Commission meeting state, "It is ordered by the commissioners that the sum of $4,000 be paid out of revenue-sharing funds to the city of Elkins for agreement between the county and city for use of the landfill."
Five years later, the minutes from the June 23, 1981, County Commission meeting report, "The Commission will sponsor free trash and garbage dumping at the Randolph County landfill on July 10 and 11, 1981, for all Randolph County residents."
More than 30 years later, city officials say Elkins is the only town or city in the state with its own landfill, albeit one that has been closed for almost two years and is nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt.
Watch for future articles in this series, which will seek to answer why the county ended any involvement with the landfill and why the city declined to turn it over to the state government.