MARION - The battle rages on in a Cook County federal courtroom with the Federal Aviation Administration and Marion Ridge Landfill over the building of a proposed landfill in Williamson County.

"We made every effort to get the FAA involved in this case because it involves federal statute," said attorney Pat McMeen, who represents the Williamson County Regional Airport.

At the center of the controversy is whether or not the judge will allow Marion Ridge to build the landfill on property adjacent to Crenshaw Road near Marion that is less than two miles from the airport.

According to FAA statute, no landfill can be built within a six-mile radius of an airport as landfills can attract birds, which can in turn interfere with or even disrupt the flight of aircraft.

Marion Ridge officials maintain that the Williamson County Board issued a site permit to build prior to the FAA statute becoming law and should thus be allowed to build the landfill.

McMeen said the FAA later advised Marion Ridge officials to file a waiver request and present whatever evidence necessary for review by the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics office in Springfield and eventually the FAA itself in Washington, D.C. No waiver request was presented.

"Marion Ridge did, however, last fall file a declaratory judgment action in a northern district federal court. The complaint alleges that certain facts in the case are in dispute, including the meaning or application of the FAA statute," McMeen said.

"The FAA responded to the declaratory judgment with a motion to dismiss the Marion Ridge litigation and then Marion Ridge responded to the motion to dismiss by filing a motion and a brief giving reasons why the litigation should not be dismissed. To date, no order has been filed by the court."

McMeen said that either party can appeal the court's decision should it lose. Airport Manager Doug Kimmel said no news is good news in regard to the construction of a landfill.

"We're just waiting to see what transpires legally at this point," he said. "I think the position of the community, as well as the airport, has not changed over the last year or so. We're opposed to a landfill being built in close proximity to the airport."

Marion Mayor Bob Butler said the city's position hasn't changed.

"We continue to be adamantly opposed to the landfill in that particular location," Butler said. "Goodness gracious. Besides the airport, the landfill site is butting up to Kokopelli subdivision, where there are about 70 homes that range from $250,000 to $1 million. Why should we have that in our own backyard? Trying to predict what a judge will decide, though, is like trying to predict which way a frog will jump."

Williamson County Board Chairman Brent Gentry said he is "totally against" the location of the proposed landfill, but that the county would certainly benefit from a landfill at a more remote site in the county - one that didn't interfere with air transportation or pricey subdivisions.

Fellow commissioner Bob Barnett said that he met with a representative of Marion Ridge Landfill at the courthouse about a year ago to discuss an alternative site for a landfill - 498 acres of land the county owns about six miles east of Marion.

"We had some discussion and I showed him our property," Barnett said. "I told him we might be interested in swapping property and that he probably wouldn't have the opposition he has now. In fact, many of the people who oppose the landfill would help him make it happen at an alternative site."

Barnett said the county put together a packet of information with land descriptions, plat maps and aerial photos of the property.

"But I haven't heard back from him - at least not yet," Barnett said. "From our perspective, though, the offer is still on the table. It could be a win/win situation for both of us."

Calls to Monticello Investments, the parent company to Marion Ridge Landfill, were not returned Wednesday.

john.homan@thesouthern.com

(618) 351-5805

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