Group plans appeal against decision on $18 solid waste fee in northern Arkansas

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:49 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The lead attorney in the class-action lawsuit against the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District says he will file an appeal on the latest decision from a Pulaski County judge.

Matt Bishop and his partner Wendy Howerton have been working the suit for the last four years to get refunds for property owners within the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District (OMSWD) who paid an $18 fee between 2017-2019 that was deemed unconstitutional. Fees collected in 2019 have already been refunded to a majority of customers, except Boone County.

On Thursday, Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox ruled the collections received on the property in 2017 and 2018 belong to the bondholders, through Bank OZK, who paid for the $12.4 million Nabors Landfill north of Mountain Home in 2005.

“I don’t think it’s right and neither does my partner Wendy Howerton,” said Bishop Tuesday. “We don’t believe that’s the correct decision. We will appeal it. We will fight not to let that money go to the bondholders.”

The fee was initially put in place to pay those same bondholders to make up for the OMSWD defaulting on $12 million in bonds after the landfill closed in 2012.

“My goal when I was made chairmen in 2019 was to have the collection fee gone, where it wouldn’t come back,” said OMSWD chairmen Fred Woehl. “You’re talking about in some places, people that have a lot of properties, 5 or 10 properties that’s $180 over three years.”

While the decision will be appealed, even if upheld, OMSWD won’t see any funds either way.

“Any money the bondholders get will not be seen by the solid waste district in any shape, manner, form, or fashion,” said Woehl. “The existing bondholders from 2007-2008 are no longer even there. Most of those bonds have changed hands.”

Woehl says he never promised anyone the fees from all three years would successfully be refunded but maintains the $18 will never return.

“You have to think of it in terms of, it was really around $25-30 million all told,” said Bishop. “So any money you can get people back now, I’m happy to do. I think it’s important for individual citizens to protect their individual rights from being ripped off.”

Despite efforts, OMSWD cannot dissolve and operates recycling services for rubber tires and electronics.

Multiple parties say Boone County residents can expect 2019 refund checks to arrive within two or three weeks.

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