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Begging for a trash solution
Jun 8, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer
Residents tell impacts of cutbacks at trash station
After 16 years, Rick Couey could lose his Bureau of Land Management contracts for collecting and disposing trash at Atlantic City area campgrounds due to vastly decreased hours at the community's transfer station.
"We have to take garbage to the dump three times a week, and they're only open three times a month," said Couey, who's lived in Atlantic City for 38 years.
"This has caused me many a sleepless night," said his wife, Gladys, an 18-year Atlantic City resident. "The days are going to be very limited, and the price that they're asking is way too much."
The Coueys were among roughly 50 people who packed the dining room of the Miner's Delight Inn in Atlantic City Thursday evening to complain about the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District's decision to limit their access to the trash site.
With two Fremont County Commissioners and two state lawmakers in attendance, many joined the Coueys in saying the change, effective June 1, threatens their businesses and could lead to increased bears and other problems.
"We may lose our contract, and that's our livelihood," Rick Couey said. "The only other option they're giving us is to haul it to Lander, and that's going to cost a lot of money."
At the sites affected by the changes, users previously had access at any time to dispose of their household waste. The change in Atlantic City for June alone means access from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on two set days, with an extra day proposed but not confirmed.
"We have an abundance of garbage from our restaurant and saloon, and to stockpile our garbage is just about impossible," said Laurel Nelson, who owns the Miner's Grubstake and Dredge Saloon.
The business that is open six days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. generates plenty of garbage, Nelson said, noting that in two days she produced eight bags of trash and eight cases of empty beer bottles.
"How do we save that up?" she asked. "I think that by restricting the dump the way it is we are going to have bigger issues."
'We are begging'
Nelson and others asked the two solid waste district representatives attending the meeting for help.
"For us, we are begging for some kind of solution for those of us that don't have the capability of storing garbage," Nelson said.
Even two days a week could still pose problems for businesses in the tourist-based economy depending on the time the transfer station is open.
"Do we stop with 45 people in the dining room and say, 'Sorry, people, we've got to go dump garbage,'" Nelson said. "It depends on what two days and what the time limits will be."
Barbara Townsend, who owns the Miner's Delight Inn bed and breakfast with her husband, Bob, said the solid waste board held previous meetings about the transfer stations.
"What's upsetting for me personally, they had this plan of attack a year ago in Riverton. ... What happened to that?" she said. "It's irritating that no one has come up here to get our input as taxpayers, as residents."
She and others emphasized the area's tourist economy and the trash volumes that swell during the summer. Bob Townsend recalled a grand opening celebration with the former Grubstake owners a few years ago that attracted 1,000 people to the area.
"There was not one piece of trash in the road" in town, he said. "People respect this place."
Townsend said the consequences of the district's actions are tremendous.
"The biggest concern was not the availability of dumping but that the borrow pits are going to turn into a dump," he said.
In order to keep the area clean, the solid waste board must change its policy, Townsend said.
"We need your service. We could live with two days a week, but we need your service. Three days a month is unacceptable," he said.
The solid waste board implemented the decreased transfer station hours as a financial move.
District superintendent Andy Frey, who attended the meeting with board chairman Mike Adams, said the primary issues involve non-payment by users, vandalism and illegal waste disposal.
"The non-payment is tremendous, not just here but at every transfer station," Frey said.
He rejected the idea of 24-hour trash service, saying nowhere in the county is the option available.
"I don't know why anybody feels they need 24-hour service. That is outrageous," he said.
LeAnn Woodhouse, a Lander resident who has had a cabin in Atlantic City for 30 years, said the district's board needs to take into account Atlantic City's uniqueness in the county that involves numerous tourists in a remote location.
The district has imposed "blanket rules for the whole county that don't meet the special, unique issues of each area," Woodhouse said.
Based on a review of the district's fiscal-year audit, she rejected the financial arguments forwarded by the solid waste board. "After looking through it for maybe half an hour, I don't think it's a money issue at all," she said.
She noted $7.7 million available for $6.4 million in expenditures. She questioned spending, pointing to the district's engineering fees totaling $1.36 million on a $675,000 budget.
Adams, the board's chairman, blamed governmental disputes on increases.
"That's where the engineering fees come from," he said.
Frey stood by the fees paid by the county.
"Those engineering fees are reviewed, every single task order, word by word by that board. ... We're doing what needs to be done to keep those facilities running," he said.
'Give me back my money'
Woodhouse said the district has lost sight of its constituents.
"If you run the thing like a business, you look at what your customers need," she said.
Community resident Preston Justice said the district's actions represent a trend of government turning its back on the area.
"I pay property taxes for police service that I do not receive. I pay property taxes for fire services that I do not receive in the winter," he said, noting a similar decrease in road maintenance.
"Now you're taking away my trash service. Give me back my money," Justice said.
The meeting ended with attendees planning to address the district board at its meeting starting at 6 p.m. on June 11 at the Lander landfill.
"They don't seem to want to budge on the days they want to open," Rick Couey said. "I think we might be wasting our time. ... You've got to try, though."