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Law targeting controversial landfill only fuels fight

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Even for those with a vested interest in the battle over a proposed landfill near Anderson, it's hard to get too worked up over the latest twist before the courts or government agencies.

After all, the Mallard Lake Landfill battle is in its 29th year.

The latest development, one that opponents of the project had hoped was the silver bullet to fell their garbage Dracula, is starting to look just as inconclusive as countless other chapters, at least for now.

That silver bullet was supposed to be Senate Bill 43, signed into law during the last session of the Indiana General Assembly. A part of the bill crafted by Sen. Tim Lanane and Rep. Terri Austin-both Democrats from Anderson-requires a new round of reviews and approval for landfill projects initially OK'd more than 20 years ago but which had not accepted waste by the end of last March.

But Ralph Reed and sons, who've long wanted to put a landfill on their 254-acre farm near county roads 300 East and 300 North, are as tenacious as ever.

In March, their waste venture, J.M. Corp., put up a sign at the proposed site, "Mallard Lake Container Collection System Open to the Public."

Their arch nemesis, nearby residents under the name of Killbuck Concerned Citizens Association, complained it was a blatant attempt to circumvent SB 43. A couple of months later, KCCA filed a lawsuit in Madison Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment to effectively force J.M. Corp.'s compliance with the new law.

KCCA wanted to force the Reeds' J.M. Corp. to go back before the county board of zoning appeals, which approved the landfill in the 1980s. The neighbors reasoned the project wouldn't comply with laws and regulations enacted since then.

"They're trying to get around [SB 43]," said Bill Kutschera, KCCA secretary. "It doesn't look like that's going to happen, but they are going to try."

Indeed. In August, J.M. Corp. filed suit in Madison Superior Court asking for a change of judge and a change in venue.

Plain and simple, "it's bad law," Reed attorney Ronald Fowler said of SB 43 and its attempts to "retroactively apply laws.

"That's never been successful in the past."

J.M. Corp.'s Indianapolis-based legal counsel, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, recently sent a letter to Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.

Observers say not to look for any rulings in the court cases until sometime in September.

Opponents have long argued that the Reed property is a poor site geologically and geographically for a landfill because leaks would contaminate Anderson's water supply.

The Reeds disputed studies cited by KCCA and said their facility would meet the latest environmental standards.

J.M. Corp. contends being lost in the debate is the potential benefits of the site in helping Anderson and Madison County deal with waste. Shipping garbage out of the county costs Anderson taxpayers alone about $750,000 a year, argues Fowler.

The KCCA argues that the potential benefits are outweighed by risks, such as birds attracted to the landfill, creating a hazard for aircraft using the nearby Anderson Municipal Airport. They also warn of a dangerous parade of garbage trucks on narrow county roads and the likely closure of an elementary school directly across from the Reed property.

The group also worries that the Reeds might be receiving the backing of East Coast trash firms, saying they find it hard to believe the family has been able to afford high-priced legal counsel after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2003. Ralph Reed laughed aloud, denying such a claim, when asked about it last year.

Even now, "they're showing no signs of financial exhaustion," the KCCA's Kutschera said of the Reeds.

"The potential payout of this landfill is just too great for anyone to walk away at this point."
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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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