Tribal waste official blasts county for rejecting trash offer

Jun 14, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board's decision to reject a proposal concerning Wind River Indian Reservation trash management is getting harsh criticism from the tribal representative involved in the talks.

Wind River Environmental Quality Commission solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz said the county agency's offer of less money than he proposed for tribal management of four trash transfer stations is destined for failure.

"The proposal in place that I gave them was a give-and-take proposal by both entities, not something ... that's been proven not to work, and they just want to pass the responsibility onto us," Ortiz said.

Tribal offer

Ortiz proposed the district would pay roughly $505,000 annually for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to take over management and transportation aspects at transfer sites in Ethete, Crowheart, Fort Washakie and on 17 Mile Road.

The tribes would pay the disposal fee of 4 cents a pound at the county facilities, Ortiz said. He estimated that at 6.3 million pounds of trash collected annually at the four reservation sites, the tribes would pay the district $265,000 in tipping fees.

During their meeting Monday, the district board members rejected his offer as too high and decided to propose a payment of $375,000 -- an amount equal to the district's costs for managing the sites.

Ortiz noted the payment to the tribes after giving the tipping fees would amount to $110,000 annually.

"I can do nothing. I can't operate (with $110,000)," Ortiz said. "They cannot be profitable with $375,000, and they don't charge themselves anything when they go across the scales."

Two factors

Ortiz said the estimated 6.3 million pounds of trash collected at the sites came from figures the solid waste district provided at public hearings in Riverton last year.

During the meeting, Ortiz presented estimated operational costs that include total equipment time at about $114 an hour at 6.75 hours a day.

"There's two factors," Ortiz said later. "There's the operational costs of what it actually costs to operate the facilities, and then there's the per-pound charge. That's what fluctuates on how much intake we have, how much we can divert, how much recycling there is and how prudent we can be with our system."

The fee proposed by the district will not work and the board's action to terminate the contract with the tribes in six months raises further doubt about trash collection on the reservation.

'Expect equal service'

"They voted to terminate the contract, so I guess we're awaiting to get the letter to terminate the contract, and I don't know. I don't know what the next step is now," Ortiz said.

"I do know one thing," he added. "The tribes expect equal service and equal protection, and we'll fight for that."

A $1 million grant received by the tribes for trash collection is also in doubt with the board's actions, Ortiz said at the district's meeting.

"We have been given a bit of a timeline with the $1 million grant," he said. "We may have to back out of this completely if we don't come to an agreement quickly."

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