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Tribes to haul trash to Casper instead of local landfills

Mar 12, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone tribes plan to start hauling waste from the Wind River Indian Reservation to the City of Casper's landfill.

Fremont County's Solid Waste District has been transporting the waste and bringing it to its dumps but does not expect the change to have a large impact on its operations.

The change was the most responsible decision for the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission as it is procuring its own truck to haul trash, solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz said.

"It's the most efficient way to operate our program in all aspects. It's not just money savings, it's efficiency and keeping costs down," Ortiz.

Service will not change for people bringing trash to the transfer station, he said.

WREQC is waiting for the new trash hauling truck to be delivered, but Ortiz expects the switch to begin this month, he said in an interview.

Tribal control

A contract signed by both tribes and the solid waste district in July turned over operation of four transfer stations on the reservation to the tribes and provided that the district would still haul waste from those locations until the tribes procured their own equipment to do so.

Once it did, the tribes would transport their own waste. The document did not stipulate where they would bring it.

Under the agreement, the tribes have paid the district $8,000 a month to transport the trash since July. The tribes also pay to dispose of the waste at the county's landfills at a rate of $5 for the first 200 pounds and $80 a ton after that.

3,000 pounds a year

Bringing waste to the City of Casper landfill would cost $35 a ton, Ortiz said, plus a one-time franchise fee. He could not recall the amount of the franchise fee.

The four reservation transfer stations produce about 3,000 pounds of waste per year, Ortiz said.

"It really isn't that large of a volume of waste," solid waste district superintendent Andy Frey said. "It will not have that significant of an impact (on the district)."

Comparing the financial picture before the new contract and after the tribes start hauling waste themselves shows only a small difference, he said.

Honor system

Before the contract was signed in July, the solid waste district personnel operated the reservation transfer stations and hauled the waste out of its own budget. Fees to bring waste to the transfer stations was on the honor system, so the district collected little revenue from tipping fees, he said.

Under the new agreement, the district is paying the tribes $250,000 to operate the transfer stations but does not have to operate them, reducing its staffing requirements.

Now that the district is not expected to haul the trash, it would save on equipment and fuel costs and personnel expenses would be even lower, Frey said.

"The goal in all of this is always to balance the picture financially," he said.

Grant for truck

A U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development grant is paying the $450,000 cost of WREQC's new trash truck, Ortiz said. The balance of the nearly $1 million grant is to fund new facilities for WREQC.

Part of the increased efficiency Ortiz expects to come out of the new hauling arrangement would come from the new truck. The vehicle would be able to transport waste more quickly than the county's truck can, Ortiz said.

It can pick up and transport three containers to a landfill at once, compared to the one the county equipment can carry, he said. The difference cuts down on the time staff spend hauling trash, Ortiz said.

New facilities for WREQC's solid waste program could include a garage for the new truck and offices for staff, Ortiz said, but he could not say what else because the design is not finalized.

"At this point there's several ideas that are being discussed," he said. "However, once we get the design work moving forward, we'll have a better idea."

WREQC issued a request for proposal and has received bids on the design work. The tribes still have to select an engineering firm and would later put a design out to bid for construction.