Kane County officials don't yet have a partner to move forward with in the first steps of converting the old Settlers Hill landfill into a recreational hub. But that isn't stopping them from earmarking more than $1.6 million worth of expenses for major changes to begin in 2014.
A county board committee reviewed a draft budget plan Thursday that taps into money squirreled away to cover possible environmental liability costs at the landfill, and a fund containing fees the county collected for a profit when the landfill was in use. There are at least $9.2 million that might eventually come into play as county officials move to implement more than 11 different improvement projects at the 700-acre site in Geneva.
The big ticket item for the 2014 budget might not even happen. County board member Mike Donahue said he's optimistic enough about starting construction on a trail and cross country track on the northeast portion of the landfill. Donahue wants to dedicate $1.15 million to getting that project under way with the hopes a large portion of those funds would be reimbursed.
Donahue has a plan for the old landfill site to become a temporary dumping ground for unwanted, clean topsoil. The cross country track needs new topsoil anyway because the county can't dig into the existing ground that encapsulates trash. The county would charge a tipping fee for accepting topsoil from area contractors. Those fees could then reimburse the county's costs for the cross country course.
Waste Management officials must sign off on the plan.
Donahue also has hopes Waste Management might manage the topsoil dumping. The company, which partners with the county to maintain the old landfill, has yet to weigh in.
Donahue also wants to earmark $550,000 in the budget to add a driving range to the existing golf course at the landfill and redesign hole No. 1 in 2014.
Several county board members have already signed off on that plan while wearing their forest preserve commissioner hats.
If the driving range and hole redesign rejuvenate the popularity of the golf course, county board members may also decide to move forward with a $5.5 million plan to redo every hole and add a new clubhouse sometime beyond 2014.
The landfill funds have gone mostly untouched and sequestered from construction project budget discussions for many years.
That fact hasn't escaped nearby residents who have begun questioning the use of the money and how county officials intend to fund the landfill improvement projects.
Responding to those concerns, Donahue said the time has come to dip into that money because these are exactly the kind of projects the cash is intended for.
"It is appropriate for the county board, from time to time, to identify uses of that fund for projects that impact that area," Donahue said. "Not all of the money is restricted, but spending it is subject to approval from the entire county board, and that's as it should be."
Part of the available money is restricted to potential environmental cleanup issues associated with the old landfill.
The county board also has a self-imposed policy of keeping a minimum fund balance of $4.5 million in the unrestricted pool of money.