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Cortland residents mull lawsuit to halt county landfill expansion

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CORTLAND – Cortland residents could decide Tuesday whether to sue DeKalb County on the township’s behalf in a final attempt at stopping a proposed landfill expansion.

Cortland resident Frankie Benson is urging fellow residents to come to the Cortland Lions Club Shelter on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to weigh in on whether the township should pursue a lawsuit against the county for approving a landfill expansion in the town despite the township’s official vote against it.

Benson said a state statute appears to prevent county leadership from usurping a township’s authority when it comes to trash disposal in town limits, but it has never been challenged in court.

Should Cortland residents support a lawsuit, the case could become a civil action suit with other townships signing on.

While Benson believes there is a strong case and has received interest from lawyers in early consultation, she said it would be the residents’ final call as issues such as funding legal efforts could deter support.

“I think people are interested in doing this but haven’t heard enough from the electors,” Benson said. “Whatever people decide at this meeting is what we’re going to do going forward.”

Tuesday’s decision from Cortland residents could be the final attempt at stopping the landfill expansion, as the citizen-led Stop the Mega-Dump group has run out of legal options.

After challenging the county’s proceedings in its decision at the Illinois Pollution Control Board and appellate court levels, Stop the Mega-Dump is waiting to hear if the Illinois Supreme Court will hear the appeal.

Dan Kenney, organizer of the group, said he expects to know whether the court will hear the case sometime between January and March. Kenney said he would be at Tuesday’s meeting, but it would not be a matter for Stop the Mega-Dump to decide.

“We’re very supportive and will help anyway can,” he said. “But this has to be solely a new effort led by Cortland Township residents.”

The landfill expansion has been targeted as the funding source for a $27 million jail expansion project for the county to deal with major overcrowding issues. The landfill would generate the revenue by charging a tipping fee for accepting other counties’ trash.

County officials hope to start the landfill expansion this spring, but cannot proceed as long as legal challenges are pending.

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