Since a waste hauling agreement with two businesses went into effect in unincorporated regions on June 1, some Lake County Board members claim they’ve been “inundated” with phone calls from irate and bewildered constituents. Groot is now the only garbage, recycling, and yard waste pickup service in the rural northern half of the county. Lakeshore Recycling Systems provides the same services in the southern part.
When the arrangement was announced, the county stated on its website that “unincorporated residents will notice a decrease in their garbage transportation rate in the vast majority of cases.” According to the county’s website, the service would cost between $240 and $310 a year on average. However, many citizens are complaining to local commissioners about rising costs for things they did not agree to or want.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting, District 17 member Michael Danforth, whose district covers major unincorporated areas of southwestern Lake County, expressed his discontent with the board. “It’s critical that we get our arms around this,” Danforth added. “Everything appears to be fine in theory. I believe we’re all getting phone calls now that we’re living this out.”
Linda Pedersen, a member of District 1, said she has been inundated with calls and emails from citizens both before and after the service began. “I know I’ve talked on this issue more than any other board member,” Pedersen added, “but I do happen to agree with member Danforth.” “I have (a homeowner’s association) that has had a garbage hauling contract for a long time. You have to have everyone in that community, in that HOA, otherwise, you’re not eligible, according to our contract (with the haulers).”
The new hauling arrangement was approved on a party-line vote, with the board’s minority Republican caucus voting nay. The bill was passed in January and went into force on June 1st, along with open burning restrictions in unincorporated areas. Danforth said the two topics appear to be resonating on a magnitude he hasn’t seen previously in his constituency.
“In the five years I’ve been on this County Board, I’ve never gotten as many phone calls and emails as I have on this,” Danforth remarked. According to Pedersen, the overall garbage hauling cost for Felter’s Association, an unorganized group of properties around Lake Catherine, will increase by nearly $15,000 per year. Only associations having waste transportation agreements in place before Jan. 11 that cover all households inside the association are exempt from the new hauling arrangement, according to the county website.
An exemption request by the Mid-Lakes Volk Brothers community in Antioch Township near Lake Marie was also denied. The previous contract with Waste Management “did not meet the contractual criterion for an HOA exemption,” according to the county. People in some of these places, according to Pedersen, have different agreements for summer houses or modest amounts of garbage that require separate waste hauling arrangements.
“I just don’t think we’ve considered some of the little issues that have arisen,” Pedersen added. “Like summer houses with garbage cans that need to be (hauled) during the summer or on weekends.” It has resulted in a major and dangerous problem in our areas. “I’m just wondering whether we should take another look at it.” Pedersen’s district encompasses much of Antioch as well as parts of Fox Lake and Lake Villa, and she represents unincorporated areas.
The county moved to establish the agreements after identifying a chance to lower costs with consolidated service, improve stability with a five-year agreement with a 2-3.5 percent annual increase limit, and reduce pollution, according to Eric Waggoner, the county’s planning, building, and development director. “Reduces greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of garbage collection and is better for local roadways,” Waggoner said in an email to the News-Sun. “In some neighborhoods, two, three, or even four haulers were picking up rubbish and recycling on one local street once a week, on different days of the week.”
“Fewer trucks mean less wear and tear on the roads, as well as less traffic congestion,” Waggoner noted. Kevin Hunter, a member of District 5, said he’s received an avalanche of calls from homeowners in unincorporated regions like Fox Lake, Ingleside, Volo, and elsewhere. “I’ve been dealing with this for the last three weeks, and these are legitimate questions,” Hunter added.
He claimed that the county’s planning and development department did a decent job putting up a proposal for requests in 2021, but that the board failed to properly analyze the “intricacies” involved in particular places within the county. Hunter stated, “We’re not in the waste business.” “I’m not here to ask, ‘Did we have any idea about the waste business?’ We didn’t know what we were doing.”
“I’m hoping this comes to a halt,” Hunter added. “Eric and his team did an outstanding job.”Some residents’ problems have been linked to Board Chair Sandy Hart, who represents District 13, through Danforth, who said he had passed constituents on to members of the board who voted in support of the change.
While Hart praised the employees, he did admit that the county should take individual instances into account as it continues to receive resident complaints. “It’s so new,” Hart remarked, “and I have faith in our planning and development staff.” “I have faith in them to make any necessary adjustments.” Hart mentioned a woman she met with, saying she told the county’s planning and development team about her concerns, and “they repaired it for her.”
If “anything was missed or may be adjusted,” Hart said she anticipated receiving more information from county personnel. Residents who were rejected exemptions are stuck with the service they don’t want for the time being. “It’s tarnished Lake County,” Pedersen added. “It has,” says the narrator.
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