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County Hall Corner: Some Really Good News

The federal government in Washington, has an advantage that state, county, and municipal governments do not have. These governments must have the money to meet their budgets through either taxes, grants, or investments. The federal government has these as well, but it also has the ability to create money. They literally represent the saying, “Money is no object.”

This is vividly illustrated by the national debt. As of May 2023, the national debt is more than $31.5 trillion. A trillion is one million millions. To get an idea of how much that is, imagine you could spend $1 million every day — it would take you 2,740 YEARS to spend just one trillion dollars. (Something to think about the next time we vote for our representatives in Washington).

Our local governments have to get their money the old-fashioned way, and the best way is one that does not stick it to the taxpayer. This is why the Lycoming County Commissioners Meeting on Thursday, November 30th, was significant and extremely satisfying. After nearly ten years of back-and-forth legal struggles, a mutual settlement agreement in the lawsuit against Lobar Inc. Construction Services was finally reached.

This case revolved around a leachate storage tank for the Lycoming County Resource Management Services, or what is better known as the Lycoming County landfill. This may not sound like such a big deal, but leachate cannot be ignored. For an example, think of a coffee maker. Water is poured into the coffee maker and flows through the ground coffee beans to create the coffee. Now imagine the water that comes from rainfall onto a landfill. It would not create something you would want to drink.

This highlights the necessity for a sanitized landfill, such as the one in Brady Township, to have a working leachate tank. And this is what the landfill thought they were getting in 2013 when Lobar installed the 7.5-million-gallon leachate tank. However, almost immediately, the landfill operators realized that it did not work as it was intended to.

And thus, the next ten years went back and forth to resolve this problem. The County had no choice but to litigate the issue. It was with this context that very good news was announced by the County’s Solicitor, J. Mike Wiley. He told the commissioners, “The way the tank is supposed to function is the liner is supposed to hold the leachate; that’s the primary containment system, and the concrete tank is there as a secondary system. The issue in the lawsuit was the liner was not functioning as intended. The County went through the process of trying to find leaks to fix it, but ultimately came to a conclusion, with the help of our experts, that we weren’t going to be able to work with the liner that was installed, and therefore, another liner contractor was selected, a new liner was installed. That’s in the process of getting finally approved by the EPA and the tank should be functional here in the not-too-distant future.”

Solicitor Wiley summed up his presentation by telling the commissioners, “It’s been a struggle that is over with a good result.” He was not kidding. Lobar is making no admission of liability by the company but will pay just over $2.9 million to the County.

The Lycoming County Resource Management Services and their director, Jason Yorks, continue to be an incredible asset, working diligently to resolve the decade-long struggle. Over the past five years, $12.5 million has gone into the general fund from the revenue generated by the landfill. And with this settlement, the costs for the last decade for the difficulties are being paid for as well.

Hats off to the legal team as well; they did a great job. I am sure they will be rewarded for their effort. As a woman once asked the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow what she could do for him after he had solved her legal trouble, he responded, “My dear woman, ever since the Phoenicians invented money there has been only one answer to that question.”