Who's Telling The Truth?: Audiotape From Meeting Offers Insight Into Local Landfill Dispute

By Jeff Neumeyer

July 16, 2013 Updated Jul 17, 2013 at 2:47 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Digging into the archives to try to settle a dispute between Fort Wayne homeowners and a landfill they say is killing their property values.

It’s an update on a story we first reported July 9th.

In that report, some homeowners insisted the operators of a landfill in southwest Fort Wayne had promised some time ago to buy their properties.

Landfill representatives contended that no such promises were made.

We got our hands on an old audiotape to try to get to the truth.

The dispute is a huge issue for homeowners who live on the border of the Republic Services Landfill off Smith Road.

Nathan Creager claims he's about to lose his home to foreclosure, because it has lost so much in value by being in the landfill's shadow.

He's adamant Republic Services promised to rescue him and his neighbors with buyout offers, but never delivered.

" It used to be you'd shake somebody's hand, a deal was a deal. They promise it. Now it seems like big corporations, they just do what they want, say what they need to say," Creager said.

We obtained an audio recording of a May 2005 Allen County Plan Commission meeting, in which Republic Services sought a re-zoning approval for the landfill.

At the meeting, the landfill's attorney, Pete Mallers, was pressed about the company buying out surrounding landowners.

" This won't happen overnight, but it is definitely a plan. The landfill folks would like to have it happen sooner rather than later," Mallers could be heard to say on the tape.

Later, plan commission members asked for a specific timetable, and you hear Gregg Walbridge talk of a 5-year capital budget plan, submitted to corporate offices.

" I believe in that 5-year plan, that most of these properties are included to be purchased," said Walbridge, who served as a landfill representative at the time.

Attorney Pete Mallers provided us a statement in connection with our update.

He said, “There was a hope that additional adjoining properties could be purchased, but as always, there were budgetary considerations, and the ultimate decision-making authority rested with company officials outside of Fort Wayne.”

Al Frisinger, who is President of the Allen County Plan Commission, listened to the tape with us, and believes Republic Services made no promises to the property owners.

" Through the hearing, I questioned them pretty hard I think about what they were going to do. They did stipulate their intent, but not a specific, hardline, yes, we're going to buy," Frisinger said.

The homeowners remain very frustrated over the situation.

They say they know what they heard, but it appears they will be hard pressed to coax new purchase offers from the landfill operators.

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