- Indiana's Lake County Council voted 5-2 last week to pass the 2018 budget for the Lake County Solid Waste Management District, totaling $5.7 million, as reported by Chicago Tribune.
- Two Republican council members — Dan Dernulc and Eldon Strong — voted against the proposed budget, calling for the waste district to be eliminated and its duties redistributed to other county entities. They argued that, despite the 27-member board being developed in response to a 1991 House bill, it was no longer necessary.
- Council members in favor of the waste district argued it is the best-equipped agency for the related responsibilities. Coucilman Dave Hamm also noted the district has a promising future under its new executive director, John Minear III, as reported by the Tribune.
While it may seem abnormal for a county council to take efforts to eliminate its solid waste district, the topic has been a hot-button issue in Indiana over the past two years. In early 2016, Senate Bill 366 was introduced to give counties the freedom to dissolve solid waste management district under a list of circumstances, which immediately sparked controversy among Lake County council members.
Despite legislative pushes to eliminate the solid waste district, Lake County's waste programs have moved forward. In mid-2016 the county developed a pilot program to compost frozen food waste, and the state has provided grants for its recycling programs. The Tribune has also reported the county's efforts to provide educational, environmental and sustainability awareness programs that have been successfully executed by the staff — proving the value of a dense multi-member board.
According to 2015 data, Indiana's diversion rate still falls short of the state's 50% goal, highlighting the importance of solid waste districts such as Lake County's to provide support for residents and businesses. Shifting those responsibilities to public works departments or local government agencies that also have other responsibilities could decrease the attention toward recycling issues. In some cases, counties can also secure better contract terms for their operations due economies of scale.