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CHARLESTON — Coles County will likely see a return of a rural trash drop off program that officials say addresses problems that led to an earlier version's ending.

It would resemble what was called the "roll off" program that operated for decades but ended last year.

However, county townships would decide on their own whether they want to participate and it will be up to them to ensure compliance with state requirements.

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Townships will be able to apply for grants from a county fund to help pay for the drop off programs. The fund will be the same source used to pay for the former roll off program and other county waste programs.

County Board Chairman Mike ZuHone said the plan was revisited after county resident Les Combs expressed concerns during several board meetings since the roll off program ended in June of last year.

"Because of the concerns that were raised, we felt it was necessary to try to find something to replace it." he said. "We're letting the townships decide what to do."

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ZuHone is also chairman of the board's Health and Safety Committee, which voted this week to recommend the new program. It's set to be on the agenda for the county board's meeting on Dec. 10.

Combs said he welcomes the new program, though it won't operate completely the same as the roll off program did.

"It's better than just removing it," he said. "I didn't think that was fair to the people."

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Combs, a Hutton Township resident, said he seldom used the roll off program but knew several people who did, some who found it difficult to afford trash pickup service.

The roll off program dated to the mid-1970s.

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Trash bins were placed in various rural parts of the county on certain Fridays of each month, available for use for county residents. The county and participating townships shared in the cost.

The decision to end the program came after communications with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency indicated that it violated state regulations.

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IEPA regulations indicate that clean up programs that operate as the roll off program did can't take place in the same location more than three times a year. The roll off program had bins in each of its locations once a month.

Combs said he still believes the roll off program didn't have to end because the state agency never indicated any concern about how it operated. That only came up after county officials made inquiries to the IEPA, he said.

The planned new program includes a provision that townships won't receive the grants from the county fund if they don't comply with state regulations, said Kelly Lockhart, director of the county Regional Planning and Development Commission, which works on solid waste issues.

"That's where the problem arose," he said.

The county has what's called a "tipping fee" fund that can be used for solid waste programs.

It came from fees collected on waste taken to county landfills, none of which are still in operation. However, according to Lockhart, there's still just more than $211,000 in the fund.

With the new program, the maximum grant amount each year will be $26,000.

Townships will be able to apply for up to $3,000 to conduct cleanup days or up to $4,000 for recycling activities, once during each county fiscal year. As with the roll off program, the township will have to cover half the cost with another funding source.

The county would have to find another money source after the tipping fee fund is exhausted but the amount will fund the program "for the foreseeable future," ZuHone said.

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Reporter

Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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