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Law enforcement preps for reduced trash hours

Jun 7, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Authorities are concerned about illegal dumping and theft of services.

In preparation for slashing hours at rural waste transfer stations countywide, the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District met with law enforcement to discuss the changes.

Representatives of the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, the Lander, Riverton and Wind River police departments, and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality were in attendance last week, in addition to members of the solid waste board.

Superintendent Andy Frey said all parties need to be prepared.

"We know we're going to have a lot of problems coming up," he said.

Starting this month, every transfer station will have set hours will only be open certain days of the month. Frey said schedules have been posted at the transfer stations and will likely be uploaded to the district's website.

The stations will only accept bagged municipal solid waste (household trash).

"We're going to need the support of everybody here," Frey told the group.

The transfer stations affected are Atlantic City, Pavillion, Jeffrey City, Lysite, Shoshoni, Missouri Valley and Hudson. Sites on the Wind River Indian Reservation will not have a change in service as those stations are subject to ongoing negotiations with the tribes.

Frey has said the change is to maintain operational costs.

"We could be seeing (littering and illegal dumping) show up everywhere," Frey told law enforcement.

He said if a few people can be caught and convicted of illegal dumping then maybe others will take it more seriously.

Prosecuting offenders

Frey asked what was needed for successful prosecution.

Sheriff's Sgt. Dan McOmie said having someone's name on mail in the garbage is not enough to prosecute, but it gives law enforcement a starting point.

Proving who dumped the garbage is difficult, he said.

"I think that's going to be a problem," McOmie said.

Solid waste attorney Rick Sollars anticipates conflict at transfer stations with individuals who do not want to pay the required fees.

Frey said station employees are "going to catch some flak."

He said there will be two people posted at each transfer station for safety reasons until "it settles down."

Sheriff presence?

Sollars asked if officers could be expected to stay in areas near transfer stations on open days.

Sheriff's Capt. David Good said his office could not spare that kind of manpower.

"We run from call to call to call," he said. "Your call is no more or less serious than the other calls we're getting."

Good did say occasional drives through the transfer stations could be made.

"We don't mind that officer presence," he said.

McOmie said successful prosecution would require evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Charles Plymale, the DEQ senior environmental analyst for the department's compliance and enforcement division, said license plate numbers in a cell phone photo have helped his department get confessions in the past.

"If we get a photo, vehicle, license plate, that's all we need," he said.

Frey asked if a solid waste employees were to find trash with an individual's name in it, if it would be best for the department to call that person or if it should be left to law enforcement.

Good said to let officers handle it.

Illegal dump concerns

Riverton police Capt. Eric Murphy said theft of services -- dumping garbage in someone else's container without permission -- will get worse. He said he'd never seen a successful prosecution for the charge.

"We have successfully prosecuted theft of services cases," Lander police chief Jim Carey said.

Good said he thought Bureau of Land Management property will be hit hard by the new changes.

Officials from the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service were invited to the meeting but did not attend.

McOmie said he thinks problems might arise when people drive to a transfer station and learn it isn't open that day.

Plymale said much of the reporting will come from the public, and that they need to be informed.

Frey said he'd work on writing a chain of communication for reports.

He said that during conversations with the communities about the transfer stations, most were amenable to possible changes.

"Now we're just going to have to deal with the people who had problems and sat around quietly," Frey said.

WRPD officer Gilbert Peck said his agency doesn't have "a lot of teeth" regarding littering and dumping. He urged the solid waste board to send ideas to the tribes as the General Council updates the law and order code.

There was also talk of illegal dumping along state highways and what jurisdiction that would fall under.

Plymale said the Wyoming Department of Transportation could assess fines.

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