Elkhart judge says VIM must pay disputed $150,000 fine
Posted: 05/30/2012 at 1:15 am
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$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$A Recycling Works truck drops a load of scrap wood at the old VIM plant Sept. 24, 2010. The scrap will be ground into mulch when the plant resumes operation.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$
Truth File Photo By J. Tyler Klassen
ELKHART — VIM Recycling has to pay a $150,000 fine, an Elkhart County judge says.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office had asked for the stiff penalty and Elkhart Superior Court 1 Judge Evan Roberts last January granted the request. VIM operator Ken Will then asked last month that the fine be waived, prompting Evans to review his decision.
The end result was the same, though — Roberts rejected Will’s motion and upheld his Jan. 9 order imposing the fine “in all respects,” according to the decision. In addition to the $150,000 fine — which reflects the six months VIM had been out of compliance with an accord to get rid of a disputed pile of wood waste — VIM has to pay $2,800 in attorney fees.
Roberts didn’t delve into many particulars, saying in his decision that he had “given thorough consideration” to the varied arguments and the court record. At an April hearing, he indicated that a decision wouldn’t be likely until May 27 at the earliest, but he actually made his ruling on May 16.
In asking that the $150,000 fine be waived, Will said in his April 23 court filing that the defunct firm, taken over by Soil Solutions, lacked money to pay the penalty. That’s not deferring the attorney general’s office, though, which will pursue collection of any VIM assets.
“Like any other creditor, the State will have to take its place in line behind any mortgagees and/or lien holders that have preceded us, and ahead of any that come after us,” Bryan Corbin, the attorney general’s office spokesman, said in an e-mail Tuesday. “An individual debtor may not discharge this type of civil penalty through bankruptcy, however.”
Will didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
The attorney general’s office and IDEM filed suit against VIM in December 2009 over a large pile of industrial wood waste piled on the wood recycler’s Old U.S. 33 grounds, located west of Elkhart. State officials said VIM illegally accepted the material, lacking the proper state permit, and had sought its removal.
The two sides reached an accord setting guidelines for the gradual removal of the wood, but the June 2011 deadline for VIM to get rid of it came and went without compliance, leading to the $150,000 fine. Soil Solutions, which bought out VIM on July 25 last year, actually got rid of the disputed wood, not VIM or Will, according to the attorney general’s office.
VIM, which recycled industrial wood waste, grinding it into mulch and animal bedding, has long been a target of regulators and neighbors stemming from dust and other emissions. Neighbors, who say the operation poses a health threat, are suing VIM and Soil Solutions in U.S. District Court.