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County waits for tribes to respond on plan to end trash contract

Jul 26, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County's solid waste district has not received any response after voting last month to start a six-month termination notice on its trash disposal contract with the Wind River Indian Reservation tribes.

"I have not heard anything," said Mike Adams, the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board chairman.

Rick Sollars, the attorney representing the district, said he has heard from Northern Arapaho legal counsel about correspondence received concerning the board's action taken June 11.

"I haven't heard anything further," Sollars told the district leaders at their July meeting.

About five months remain before the termination of the 1996 contract between the district and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes takes effect, which would leave the future of reservation trash management in question.

District board members imposed the termination clause after negotiations failed with a tribal agency to take over management of the four transfer stations on the reservation.

While seven other transfer stations in the county have a new restricted schedule, including staffed hours of operation imposed by the district, sites in Crowheart, Ethete, Fort Washakie and on 17 Mile Road continue on a 24/7 basis.

Wind River Environmental Quality Commission solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz proposed a plan for the tribes to handle management of the sites for roughly $505,000 annually. The tribes would pay the tipping fee of 4 cents at the landfills under his proposal.

Explaining the situation to county commissioners July 10, Sollars said about Ortiz's proposal: "The board reviewed everything, and the dollar amount did not compute."

During their June 11 meeting, the district board members rejected Ortiz's offer as too high and proposed a payment of $375,000 -- an amount equal to the district's costs for managing the sites.

Ortiz later countered 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 to the district. The payment to the tribes after giving the tipping fees would amount to $110,000 annually.

Sollars said the board's action to terminate the contract in six months is an attempt to "ultimately get some progress on a new agreement."

"As of this date, the district has not heard any response whatsoever from the tribes or the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission," Sollars told commissioners July 10.

If there remains no response by the Dec. 14 deadline, "you would have a terminated contract," he said.

"We're hoping to get a response" to develop a new plan for the reservation, Sollars said. "That's still the board's hope."

Commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson said he has concern about the four transfer sites on the reservation continuing to operate under the district's old rules.

"There's always a concern of having unequal facilities out there," Hickerson said, noting the 24/7 availability at the reservation transfer sites.

Sollars said legal hurdles present themselves concerning the sites on tribal lands.

"The issue, though, becomes a jurisdictional one on the reservation, and it also ties into the 1996 contract," he said.

Any changes to the reservation contract must go before the Joint Business Council for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, Sollars said.

"Both jurisdictionally and contractually we can't treat them the same" as the other transfer sites, but the goal with the new agreement is to accomplish that, he said.

A letter dated June 14 from the district to tribal leaders noted the changes to the county's transfer stations that have happened in past months, except on the reservation because of the 1996 agreement.

The letter states that solid waste officials believe the agreement "is no longer viable due to changes that have occurred in the District and also due to the issues that have been faced by the District with regards to the transfer stations."

"While the District intends to continue the discussions on a new agreement, it can no longer operate under the 1996 Agreement and the issues that are not able to be addressed under that agreement," according to the letter.

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