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Agency proposes a takeover of trash collection

Apr 17, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

A tribal agency is proposing to take over management, collection and transportation of trash collected at the four transfer stations on the Wind River Indian Reservation in exchange for $500,000 annually and a disposal fee discount.

The Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board members listened to the proposal from the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission concerning trash handling on the reservation.

"I think that this is a starting point of a proposal, and it's something that we can perhaps discuss going forward," said Wind River Environmental Quality Commission solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz to board members during their meeting April 9.

"We want to be part of the county plan, not just a segregated portion of how the whole plan is going to work," Ortiz said.

Board members agreed the proposal represents ongoing discussions concerning a plan with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

"I think it's a very good start," board member Rick Klaproth said, suggesting a committee to explore the plan and develop options as discussions continue.

The idea of the tribes managing their own trash collection sites resulted from concerns by the district board over the past couple of years about the financial challenges with handling garbage, especially on the reservation.

Solid waste district superintendent Andy Frey presented board members with a document outlining operating costs for the reservation's four transfer stations at roughly $362,000 in 2011.

The document shows nearly $265,000 in missed revenue from the sites for a total potential financial loss of about $627,000 for the district.

As part of their trash plan, the tribes are developing a central collection site in Fort Washakie using a $1 million grant for handling waste. They also would manage the transfer sites that include one on 17 Mile Road and others in Ethete, Fort Washakie and Crowheart.

Under the proposal, the tribes are asking the county for $504,610 annually from the district to manage the four sites.

The tribal operation would include collection, maintenance, equipment and transportation to landfills.

The tribes are also asking for a 50 percent discount on the disposal costs of 4 cents per pound at landfills.

When board vice chairman Jerry Crews asked what the tribes use as a reasoning for their proposed cost of 2 cents per pound, Ortiz said, "That you'll be receiving only municipal solid waste in a highly condensed lump."

The tribes would use compacting equipment that will compress the household waste collected and lighten the workload at the district's baling stations, Ortiz said.

"That stuff that we bring won't have to go through the bale because it would be so compacted," he said.

The district takes municipal solid waste collected and compresses it at its baling stations in Riverton and Lander before sending it to the landfills for permanent disposal. Compressing the trash better uses landfill space and extends the life of each site.

Board member Richard Rodgers questioned how the district could charge the tribes 2 cents and other collectors such as the City of Riverton the standard 4 cents.

"That's going to be a hard sell," Rodgers said.

Board member Jeff Hermansky disagreed with a discount, noting the baling is necessary for the municipal trash collected.

"The compacting helps you have an efficient load. It doesn't help us here," Hermansky said.

"I see absolutely no justification for the discount," he said. "Every other entity that's hauling trash must pay that."

Board member Dave Hines voiced support for seeking tribal help in the situation, pointing to the hundreds of thousands of dollars the district stands to lose at the four transfer sites.

"And if that truck is bringing in compacted household waste, that means our guys don't have to sort it," Hines said.

Board chairman Mike Adams said the compacted trash will need separation "because our guys can't push that into the baler."

Frey said baling is an important process for the district's overall operations. While construction and demolition waste and certain other debris are not baled before disposed at landfills, "if we would place moderately loose (household) waste, we would be wasting air space," he said.

"We do not own any packing equipment ... so we do not regain that" lost space in the landfills, he added.

The board's newest member, Mike Morgan, who formerly served as the director of the Fremont County Association of Governments, asked for a cost-benefit analysis on the proposal.

"Maybe there's a chance for a good partnership," Morgan said. "Until we see the math on it, I really can't make an informed decision."

Although supportive of the plan's starting point, Klaproth noted "too many loose ends" in the proposal. His committee proposal generated support.

"You need an active committee to start working on some of those details," said solid waste district attorney Rick Sollars. "It seems like this is something general that is headed in the direction" indicated by the board months ago.

Hines, Klaproth, Rodgers and Morgan volunteered to serve on the committee to study the proposal.

"This does become the basis for us to move forward and we really need to move forward," Hermansky said.

Ortiz wants the district to provide feedback and make progress on the proposal.

"I would like to see maybe the board get together and do whatever you feel is necessary and get some proposal back to us," he said. "It really is up to you guys how we're going to proceed and move forward."

Hines emphasized his support for the plan, noting the tribes will deliver only municipal waste they will sort and compact.

"There's got to be a savings there. There has to be," he said.

"It sounds to me like they want to work with us. It sounds to me like we're very positive about it," Hines said. "I know this is going to save the district money. It's probably got to be tweaked. I say we go strong for it, Mr. Chairman."