CORTLAND – While the window could be closing on an appeal to stop the landfill expansion, Stop the Mega-Dump members could lead the charge on a larger, potentially groundbreaking case.
During a public meeting Nov. 15 in Cortland, Stop the Mega-Dump leaders urged Cortland Township residents to band together and initiate a class-action lawsuit that would put a state law to the test for the first time and potentially give township governments a trump card over county government in garbage disposal decisions.
An Illinois statute that states township residents can prevent the deposit of garbage within township limits – including at refuse disposal facilities – could be the key and final opportunity for residents opposed to the landfill expansion to make a stand.
Because Cortland Township representatives have officially voiced opposition to the landfill expansion to DeKalb County Board members multiple times, Stop the Mega-Dump member Mac McIntyre said there could be a strong legal challenge.
“We need your help and we need you to take ownership,” McIntyre said, explaining the lawsuit must start with the township.
The statute has never been challenged in court the way the group proposed Thursday, but members believe it could turn into a class-action lawsuit with many of the state’s townships joining in to gain more local control that has been depleted over the years.
Cortland resident Frankie Benson said she would attempt to lead the movement to start the suit, starting with a discussion among township trustees. She said it would be difficult to get the needed support and enthusiasm to raise the money needed to start the lawsuit – potentially $10,000 – but believed it could be done.
“It’s just repeating the message … and showing the ways we’ve been walked over,” Benson said of rallying support. “This [township] is a very important body to us.”
Stop the Mega-Dump member Grace Mott noted the money needed to mount a legal challenge should not intimidate Cortland residents as the anti-landfill group proved it could be done through small donations by a large number of people.
Residents attending the meeting already asked how they could make donations.
“We already put together more than that and paid our lawyers,” Mott said of Stop the Mega-Dump’s legal battle through the appellate court. “The money adds up.”
To give Cortland residents time to organize and start a lawsuit, Stop the Mega-Dump leader Dan Kenney said the group would file an appeal to the state supreme court. The 2nd District Appellate Court found in October that the Illinois Pollution Control Board was correct in its ruling that county proceedings were not fundamentally unfair.
While Kenney said the group only had about a 5 percent chance of the supreme court accepting the case, it could delay landfill proceedings until March, giving Cortland residents a chance to mount a legal challenge of their own.