The Union County Solid Waste Authority met Monday, for the first time since 2021, after several calls from an El Dorado City Council member to bring the group together.
The Solid Waste Authority (SWA) is made up of the mayors of each of the municipalities in Union County; four members of the El Dorado City Council (one from each ward); and two Union County Justices of the Peace.
The SWA is funded through a countywide, 1% sales and use tax, along with a $1 per ton host fee charged to other counties that dump garbage at the county landfill.
At their last meeting in 2021, members of the SWA agreed to allow a local certified public accounting firm, rather than the Union County Treasurer's office, to manage its funds. Emerich & Scroggins have kept the body's books since then.
Earlier this year, El Dorado City Council member and former mayor Frank Hash called for an SWA meeting. He referred back to a land sale the SWA made in 2016; funds raised from the sale were divvied up among all the entities in the SWA, and Hash said in April that the SWA could consider paying out again depending on the body's bank balance.
The City of El Dorado is still owed $50,000 from the land sale because the city agreed in 2016 to leave some funds in the SWA's bank account in case of emergency.
At the meeting Monday, Union County Judge Mike Loftin presented SWA members with a bank statement showing the SWA's revenues and expenditures since July 18.
According to the document, the SWA has received $11,975.27 in host fees and $318.01 in interest since then, along with $133,800 in an uncategorized deposit. The SWA has spent $183,706, paid to Jet Asphalt for maintenance of the road leading to the landfill. The total balance in the SWA's account was $706,423.18 on Monday.
JP Mike Dumas explained that the SWA charges other counties that drop their garbage in the county landfill $1 per ton of garbage dumped; those are the host fees.
"Dallas County at Fordyce, Columbia County at Magnolia, Ouachita County, Camden – they were closing their landfills, they didn't want a landfill, but they would be willing to bring their garbage here," Dumas said. "Waste Management saw that as additional dollars, so they had to get a solid waste authority, the Union County Solid Waste Authority's approval to bring that waste into this county, and the host fee is the way they got us to approve it, where we'd get money out of it."
Dumas, who previously served as mayor of El Dorado, explained that the SWA's funding distribution was agreed to in a 1997 interlocal agreement, which stipulated that each entity within the body would receive a certain percentage in turn back funds generated from the countywide tax.
"Once upon a time, the city of El Dorado had a sales tax; that sales tax went for street department, went to build streets. Then County Judge Bobby Evans said, 'I have no way of paying for my garbage, and it's growing...' He said, 'I want a sales tax. Will you give up the city sales tax so we can go for a countywide sales tax?'" he recalled. "I agreed to that... with one exception, the exception being that the sales tax for the City of El Dorado would be guaranteed at 52%."
El Dorado's turn back percentage is 52% Union County's, 36%; Smackover's, 4.8%; Huttig's, 1.7%; Norphlet's, 1.5%; Junction City's, 1.4%; Strong's, 1.3%; Calion's, 1.1%; and Felsenthal's, 0.2%.
Felsenthal Mayor Theresa Howard asked how the turn back percentages were calculated, citing her city's growth in recent years.
"See, what I've run into with Felsenthal ... is we're growing and we have such a higher-income population, we're having lots of trouble getting grants and stuff," Howard said. "So, that's why I'm asking – it's money that my town could use."
Dumas said besides El Dorado's portion, the rest of the SWA turn back percentages are based on population.
El Dorado City Council member Dianne Hammond asked whether the current account balance could be divided among participating entities; Loftin said he would like to keep the balance at a minimum of $150,000, but left it up to the SWA to decide what to do with the rest of the funds.
Hammond moved to have $50,000 from the balance paid to El Dorado, to complete its payment from the 2016 land sale, and to divvy up $500,000 in the account among itself, the other cities in the county and the county itself according to the percentages outlined in the 1997 agreement.
Under those terms, the City of El Dorado would receive $260,000; Union County, $180,000; Smackover, $24,000; Huttig, $8,500; Norphlet, $7,500; Junction City, $6,999.99; Strong, $6,500; Calion, $5,500; and Felsenthal, $1,000. With the additional $50,000 payment, El Dorado will receive $310,000 altogether.
Members of the SWA agreed unanimously to pay out the funds. Loftin said $150,000 will remain in the SWA budget.
"The simple reason is, you know, the last big rains we've had, the water has come over that road twice. I've gone and replaced culverts and done what I could to stop it. If it washes out, and there's not enough money in here to fix it, then we're all going to ante up," Loftin said.
Hash also moved to establish set meetings of the SWA, suggesting they plan to meet at least every two years. Members unanimously approved his motion.