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Proposed city-tribe trash agreement raises questions for Riverton officials

Jan 18, 2017 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Part two of two

The Northern Arapaho tribal official offering a cooperative trash disposal arrangement to the City of Riverton says past problems in solid waste handling on the Wind River Indian Reservation are being dealt with, and needn't hinder any agreement with the city.

Ryan Ortiz, executive director for the Natural Resource Office of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, said there was an illegal dumping problem at the Arapahoe garbage transfer station in the past, but said that since the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council closed it, the problem had "worsened by 10 times."

Ortiz said the Northern Arapaho Solid Waste Program is planning to invest thousands of dollars in cleaning up the illegal dumping site.

Riverton city attorney Rick Sollars raised regulatory and liability concerns were the city to enter into a trash agreement with the tribe. He said that because the Arapaho tribe is an "independent nation," the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't have regulatory or enforcement power over the tribe, but the agency does has such authority over the city for any "cradle-to-grave" liability.

City public works director Kyle Butterfield said that if collaboration with the NASWP didn't work out for any of those reasons, the county wast district might be unable to offer the same services to the city that it had before the NASWP deal.

Butterfield also asked the Riverton City Council to remember that the proposal is in its initial stage, and that available grant funding and true costs are unknown at this point.

The city staff's recommendation was to wait to make changes until the tribe had a "more solidified program" that had been running for at least one year.

Money now

The NASWP formed last year, and began to haul trash for Arapaho housing communities, casinos, and businesses at that time. Ortiz said it plans to expand its services in the county, and in 2015 the NABC allocated $490,000 to move those plans forward. Last year, the group received a grant from the United Sates Department of Agriculture for $999,910, which helped pay for equipment and operations.

Ortiz said the NASWP plans to apply for another grant from the USDA to build the transfer station on Gas Hills Road that would be part of the potential Riverton deal.

Ortiz said the tribe's two options for use of the funds are either to invest it in other areas of its operations or use the money to get equipment to handle Riverton trash.

If the city were to go with the NASWP deal, the Arapaho tribe would make an investment of roughly $472,000 in the agreement -- something it might not be able to promise again.

"Now we can buy things to handle your waste volume," Ortiz said, noting that he wouldn't be able to make the same offer to the council next year, once the system was already up and running.

"Right now I can dedicate that money to the city ahead of time."

Ortiz reassured the council that he was confident they could handle Riverton's trash once the NASWP secured new equipment. If the city chose not to go through with the proposed change, Ortiz said, that would be fine--but the tribe only has the unused capital now.

"We're willing to put up to $500,000 up for you to use our service," Ortiz said.

Separation

After the Northern Arapaho Business Council separated itself from the Eastern Shoshone Business Council in 2015, the Arapaho tribe purchased a hoist truck and began to haul its trash to transfer stations in Ethete and Arapaho.

In July 2016, a contract between the tribes and the FCSWDD ended. The Shoshone tribe remained with the FCSWDD, while the NASWP was formed by that tribe.

"We're already a sustainable operation, but we want to expand," Ortiz said. "By going to Casper, with the money we save on the back end of it, we'd be able to increase the things that we do for the community."

Ortiz requested no deadline for a decision,so the council agreed to conduct more research and discuss the proposal further at an unspecified later date.

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2017-10-17

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