By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — When Frank O’Neal bought his property next to the proposed Mallard Lake Landfill more than a decade ago, he was told the fight to keep the site from accepting solid waste was over.
Today, he watches with misgivings as excavators, bulldozers and other heavy equipment push dirt on the property.
“It’s a sad deal,” O’Neal said. “A lot of people have been wanting to do something with our property, but we don’t want to do anything because if it is a dump, you are going to lose your money.”
According to county records, in September, Bex Farms, Inc., purchased the 254-acre property for $1.125 million. The landfill permit for the property is in the process of being transferred to 600 Land, Inc. Both companies share the same address, 5300 Miller Road, Kalamazoo, Mich.
In 1979, a proposal first came up to convert the acreage into a landfill on property owned then by J.M. Corp. and Ralph Reed and Sons, Inc. Legal battles ensued, but the permit was approved in 1988 by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. More legal fights followed and Reed died in 2012. Discussions began that same year to sell the land. In September, the sale was announced to Bex Farms.
The site meets the regulations for a landfill but has not operated as one yet.
Barry Sneed, a public information officer for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said the existing permit allows the owner to develop 13 acres of the property as a landfill. The permit will expire Feb. 1, 2015. He said the owner of the permit will have to submit a renewal application at least 120 days before that date or let the permit expire.
“The permit transfer will be evaluated and if it meets all of the criteria, it will be transferred to 600 Land, Inc.,” Sneed said.
Andy Drummond, facility manager for Best Way Disposal in Anderson, has acted as the spokesman for all three companies which are affiliated. He said the companies have no need or current plans to use the property as a landfill.
He explained that 600 Land, Inc. owns permits, landfills and transfer stations and Bex Farms, Inc., owns the buffer land around landfills and transfer stations in addition to land being held for investment purposes.
“The Mallard Lake land purchase is primarily to control what happens with the permit,” Drummond said.
Best Way is talking to local farmers about renting the tillable land and is interested in selling, leasing or developing the property, he said.
'Best interest in mind'
O’Neal said it does not make sense for a solid waste, recycling and disposal company to spend more than $1 million on a landfill they do not intend to use.
“I don’t trust them,” O’Neal said. “I don’t trust any of them.”
Drummond said he knows the landfill has raised the concerns of its neighbors and those living in the county.
“People that understand the refuse industry and know Best Way well appear to be thrilled we are now involved with the future plans for the property,” Drummond said. “Best Way Disposal is an established and credible company operating in Madison County since 1999. We work and live here as well. As always, and in the future, we strive to have the best interest of the community in mind.”
The company owns landfills in Greensburg, Indianapolis and Modoc, but this is its smallest landfill. It also owns transfer stations and a recycling center.
Drummond said he cannot imagine any “unfortunate circumstances” that would require the company to rely on Mallard Lake for landfill purposes.
“Best Way hauls the trash from Anderson to Randolph Farms Landfill in Modoc,” he said in an email to The Herald Bulletin. “Through planning and permitting our goal is to keep the available capacity at Randolph Farms between 15 and 20 years and is currently within that goal.”
O’Neal said if the owners try to use the site as a landfill, the lawsuits which have plagued the proposed plans for waste disposal will be back.
“I would be shocked if they didn’t do it,” he said. “Something just ain’t right. I’m literally just sick of it.”
Another neighbor of the landfill, Paul Stiers, said he spoke with an on-site worker who said the company is creating 60 more acres of farmland. Both O'Neal and Stiers say heavy equipment is being used to level the area and remove trees.
“I know there is money in farming right now and I’m hoping if they leave it at that, they are going to be in really good graces with the community,” Stiers said. “If they decide in a year or two to do the landfill, it's going to get ugly.”
Some of the dirt being moved will open areas that had been created by a previous owner to shield the landfill site.
“I kind of feel if they were going to make a landfill they would leave that dirt there,” Stiers said.
O’Neal said the value of his property is tied to development by his corporate neighbors and he plans to keep a close eye on what is happening next door.
“We have been watching them,” he said. “If they put a dump in there I would be better off to raise my property and move on. No one wants to live by a dump.”
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Associated properties According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, there are three landfills in the state that are permitted and operated by companies associated with Best Way Disposal, 600 Land, Inc., or affiliates. All three facilities are municipal solid waste landfills. The following are the names and locations of the landfills: Decatur Hills Landfill Decatur Hills Incorporated FP 16-03 2090 S. County Road 280E Greensburg, Indiana South Side Landfill Southside Landfill Incorporated FP 49-01 2561 Kentucky Ave. Indianapolis, Indiana Randolph Farms Landfill Randolph Farms Incorporated FP 68-01 7526 W. County Road 600S Modoc, IN 47358 The company also operates East Central Recycling, 701 E. Centennial Ave., Muncie. Locally, Best Way also operates a transfer station on the south side of Anderson at 1128 W. 66th St.