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Boston Mountain Regional Solid Waste Management District v. Benton County Regional Solid Waste Management District

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

October 30, 2019

BOSTON MOUNTAIN REGIONAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT APPELLANT/CROSS-APPELLEE
v.
BENTON COUNTY REGIONAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLANT

          APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CV-16-629] HONORABLE XOLLIE DUNCAN, JUDGE.

          Harrington, Miller, Kieklak, Eichmann & Brown, P.A., by: Thomas N. Kieklak, for appellant/cross-appellee.

          Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., by: Curtis E. Hogue and M. Scott Hall, for appellee/cross-appellant.

          Rita W. Gruber, Chief Judge.

         This appeal arises from a dispute between two regional solid-waste management districts over statutory fees related to the movement or disposal of solid waste within and between districts. Instead of the equal division of fees called for in the code, the Benton County Circuit Court found that the statutory fee division provided for an "unjust enrichment" to the appellant Boston Mountain Regional Solid Waste Management District and that the entire fee should be paid over to the appellee Benton County Regional Solid Waste Management District. The Boston Mountain District appeals, arguing that the statutory scheme should be enforced as written because the statute is presumed constitutional. The Benton County District cross-appeals, arguing that the circuit court erred in not declaring the statute unconstitutional. We reverse on direct appeal and dismiss the cross-appeal.

         I. Background Facts

         A brief history of the legislation and this lawsuit is helpful. In March 1991, the Arkansas legislature passed Act 752 of 1991 as part of an overhaul of the state's solid-waste management system and recycling programs. The Act renamed regional solid-waste planning districts and solid-waste service areas as regional solid-waste management districts to be governed by regional solid-waste management boards. Act 752 also greatly expanded the powers and duties of the regional solid-waste management boards, which are the entities responsible for providing solid-waste management systems for their districts. The Act gave the boards authority to assess service fees for solid-waste collection services. See Ark. Code Ann. § 8-6-714(b) (Repl. 2018). The Act was silent as to any limits on the amount of the fees and whether they could be assessed on districts that disposed of solid waste from an adjoining district. Section 8-6-714 was substantially rewritten by Act 209 of 2011. Pertinent to this appeal, the boards were given authority to "fix, charge, and collect rents, fees, and charges of no more than two dollars ($2.00) per ton of solid waste related to the movement or disposal of solid waste within the district[.]" See Ark. Code Ann. § 8-6-714(a)(1)(A). As amended, section 8-6-714(c)(3) further specified certain conditions and circumstances under which fees may be assessed:

(A) Districts shall determine by interlocal agreement how the districts shall:
(i) Assess and administer the fee; and
(ii) Divide the fees.
(B) If districts cannot reach an interlocal agreement regarding the division of the fees, then the fees shall be divided equally between the districts.

Ark. Code Ann. § 8-6-714(c)(3)(A).

         The parties once had an interlocal agreement dated May 26, 2011, that addressed the distribution of the waste-assessment fees for waste originating in the Benton County District and brought into the Boston Mountain District. The fees are paid to the districts by the company hauling the waste load to the landfill through a contract with a municipality or county government. Article 2 of the agreement provided that both districts at present had a waste-assessment fee of $1.50 per ton on all solid waste generated in their respective district, brought into their district from outside their district, or generated in their district and transported outside their district or the state. Article 3 provided that the fee would remain at $1.50 per ton unless both agreed to an increase. In Article 10, the districts agreed to leave in place any contract for waste-assessment fees existing at the time of the agreement and that the fee would be paid entirely to the generating district. The essence of the agreement is that the district generating the waste receives the entire fee. The agreement was to expire on May 1, 2016.

         A private company, Waste Management, operates the Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown, Arkansas, within the Boston Mountain District. The landfill is the destination for solid waste generated within the Benton County ...


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