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Revenue up at trash stations

Jul 15, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The solid waste district's seven transfer stations, which are operating under a new restricted schedule, brought in $2,004 during their first month compared to $620 for the same period last year.

The sites in Atlantic City, Pavillion, Jeffrey City, Lysite, Shoshoni, Missouri Valley and Hudson appear to be making more under the schedule implemented in June, but concerns remain about their ongoing costs.

Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board member Mike Morgan said the combined operations at the seven transfer stations totaled 25 days in June, and he estimated it cost roughly $250 a day to operate the stations.

Money losers

With the total estimated costs to man the sites each day they are open at more than $6,000 for the month, based on Morgan's estimate, he said the transfer stations remain a losing proposition for the district.

"We're losing money collecting the money at a ratio of at least $3" spent for every $1 gained, Morgan said. "This is something the board needs to understand."

One of the newest members on the nine-person board, Morgan was the lone vote against adopting a revised schedule that opens the affected transfer about once a week except during the slower winter months.

The district continues to subsidize the seven transfer sites, "and we don't do that for Riverton or Lander," Morgan said during the board's meeting July 9.

Considering the number of patrons at the transfer sites in June, "On its face right now, this works out to about a $10 or $15 subsidy per customer in one month," Morgan said.

"This is a whole lot of subsidy, and we're just going to subsidize it more," he said after voting against the new schedule.

Board chairman Mike Adams said he knows the district is losing money on the transfer sites.

"I don't think the revenue will come close, but I don't think we are losing as much money as we used to be," he said.

District superintendent Andy Frey concurred with Adams.

"There's no doubt we are losing money. We are losing less," Frey said.

Under the new schedule for the seven transfer stations, one employee is able to man the single site that is open each day, Frey said. He compared it to the previous schedule of keeping the stations open 24/7.

"In my opinion, we're taking that $3 a mile truck off the road to seven sites every day," Frey said.

Looking at the figures from June is helpful to gauge progress, he said, but it would be inaccurate to try to get a true feeling of the situation after only one month.

Ongoing challenges

The discussion among board members illustrates the ongoing challenges that exist with the transfer stations and the district's desire to improve the efficiency of the operation.

Board member Travis Brockie defended the transfer stations' operation.

"We are a service industry for the community," he said. "We also forget the 3-mill levy we impose on the citizens of this community."

Morgan, a former director of the Fremont County Association of Governments, questioned the property tax revenue's purpose.

"My recollection of the three mills is it's for the landfills," he said. "We are a landfill district. ... This is a pickup service."

Board member Steve Baumann said more time is necessary for the public to learn the new schedule and increase usage at the transfer stations.

"There is no doubt that six or seven or eight months down the road we need to take a look at these numbers," Baumann said, suggesting the possible need to increase the tax to the public.

'More rocks in the boat'

Morgan noted comments Frey made in a June 12 memo about the need to increase staff to accommodate the new staffing schedule at the transfer sites.

"It seems to me that we keep putting more rocks in this boat. We're adding days and subsidies, and we're talking additional staff. And I'm not into taxes," Morgan said.

Frey said the district would not need additional staff or pay overtime to work the new schedule.

Commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson, who serves as the liaison to the trash board, said the district cannot impose higher taxes.

"The one thing you've got to remember is the reason this solid waste district was formed ... was everybody was sick of having their gullies full of garbage," Hickerson said.

Because of the county's size, the smaller outlying communities need access to trash disposal services, he said.

"We've got to figure out a compromise to work," he added.

Morgan said the district needs to be realistic about its operation.

"I just don't think government can do it all," he said. "There's some things we should only do, but there are some things we shouldn't do."