Steps taken by Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District Board to get rid of landfill fee in north Arkansas
Through a unanimous vote Monday, the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District Board, which was in charge of a defunct landfill, made a lot of people in north Arkansas happy.
"We're very appreciative that the board took the action that they did," said Billie Balke, who lives in Harrison.
The Board agreed an $18 annual fee each property owner needed to pay was illegal, backed by several judges in the area.
"The people did not vote on it, and it should never have been charged," said Board Chairman Fred Woehl.
The problem goes back 15 years when the District borrowed about $12 million to buy a landfill.
It defaulted and closed the landfill in 2012, but a judge ordered the District pay back around $30 million for the loan and cleanup.
"No matter how many people say that it's junk and all of that, the bondholders get paid under state law," said Geoffrey Treece, the receiver appointed by the court.
Property owners in six counties sued over the $18 fee, and judges who heard the cases sided with them.
Last Monday, a judge told Treece, the person responsible for collecting the money, he could not appeal the rulings.
"Then it fell back on either the Board or the trustee for the Bank of the Ozarks to file," Woehl said.
That led to Monday's unanimous Board vote to end any appeals on their end.
There's still a chance the Bank of the Ozarks, with its bondholders still owed millions of dollars, could appeal the rulings.
But the District feels like it's in a good position to ensure a tax many saw as unfair is finished.
"We're hoping (the bondholders) will not do the appeal. And I guess if that happens then we'll have to see as citizens what other actions we're going to have to take," Balke said.
People paid more than $2 million toward that debt in 2018. Woehl said they could get that money back by filing a claim through Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s courtroom in Little Rock. They have 30 days to do that.
As for the money collected last year, that's still up in the air.