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State Supreme Court delays landfill expansion challenge 2 months

DeKALB – It will be at least two months before DeKalb County officials will know whether the Waste Management landfill can be expanded and create the revenue they seek for a larger jail.

The Illinois Supreme Court delayed making a decision Wednesday on whether to hear Stop the Mega-Dump’s appeal against the DeKalb County Board’s decision to expand the landfill outside Cortland, surprising both opponents and supporters of the expansion.

Dan Kenney, organizer of the grass-roots Stop the Mega-Dump group, said he believed the court would make a decision on whether to take the case between January and March. Kenney said the unexpected silence from the court could speak to the strength of the appeal.

“I think it’s encouraging they haven’t made a decision yet. It shows they are considering it carefully,” Kenney said. “We’re looking forward to May and seeing what they have to say.”

The court is expected to reconvene in May and make decisions on appeals by the end of that month. Justices could choose to take no action on the case again and leave it pending.

While anti-landfill-expansion supporters were pleasantly surprised with Wednesday’s inaction, county officials were frustrated.

DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said officials and County Board members thought a decision was likely in January and a definite in March, so the delay was shocking.

He said the uncertainty was frustrating in the winter, but it will be even worse during the next two months as the weather warms and the county misses out on prime construction time.

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.      

That jail expansion cannot begin until the landfill expansion starts. 

“It’s hard to have the calendar roll by, and we can’t do anything about it,” Hanson said. “It’s very frustrating.”

The delay also provides extra time for Cortland Township residents to raise funds for a legal challenge of their own. Residents approved a strategy in February to collect private donations for the $60,000 in legal fees it could cost to challenge Waste Management and its proposed expansion.

Township supporters argue there is language in state statutes that authorizes townships to deny garbage disposal within its limits. Cortland Township formally opposed the expansion during County Board hearings in 2010.

With the decision delayed until May, township residents could accelerate their efforts during the annual meeting of electors in April. If the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed the case in May, the township’s potential lawsuit could then delay any groundbreaking.

Frankie Benson, leader of the township efforts, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

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