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Solid waste troubles 'turning around,' says commission chairman

Oct 19, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Revenue problems that have plagued the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District in recent years are "kind of turning around," according to Fremont County Commission Chairman Doug Thompson, who recently began serving as liaison to the solid waste board.

The district faces looming costs in the future when county landfills are set to close. The Lander landfill has four to 10 years left before it must be shut down, Thompson said, while Commissioner Pat Hickerson estimated the Sand Draw landfill east of Riverton will last about 24 years.

Until recently, however, the solid waste district hadn't saved up much money to address those scheduled closures, which represent a large expense.

"Those liabilities are carried on the county's balance sheet, so to leave them unfunded or unaddressed was inappropriate," Thompson said during a meeting last week in Riverton. "So they are using tipping fees and a portion of their three-mill levy to address that and try to build a fund."

Tipping fees are included in charges for trash disposal countywide, though Thompson acknowledged that some people who drop loads of garbage at unmanned trash transfer stations often don't pay their fair share. He said revenue streams from newly monitored transfer stations are beginning to approach costs, though, and the district is working to be more attentive to the unique needs of each area it serves.

Schedules tweaked

"They are adjusting their schedules to be more community sensitive," Thompson said.

For example, Jeffrey City residents may not need their trash picked up as regularly as people in more populated parts of the county, and Thompson said some people may benefit from longer hours at transfer stations.

"If you work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the landfill or the transfer station closes at 5 p.m., what do you do?" Thompson said. "They're trying to (keep the stations open on) weekends and a little time after 5 p.m. so the people can deliver their trash."

He said the district also is working to make sure drivers only transport full loads of trash across the county instead of the half-loads that have been seen on local roads.

Reservation

The district voted in June to start a six-month termination notice on its 1996 trash disposal contract with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, and with termination poised to take effect in December, trash management remains in question for the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The disposal district also may face

litigation stemming from the decision to terminate the trash management agreement. But Thompson said the district is not allowed to charge tipping fees or fence and monitor transfer stations on the reservation because of jurisdictional conflicts.

"There's been an invitation for dialogue with the tribes to talk about if they want to take it over," Thompson said. "If the solid waste district will keep doing it they need to have some ability to manage the trash situation. So hopefully they can get together and talk this out and get a solution out there."

County Clerk Julie Freese encouraged residents to contact the district if they have questions.

"They are their own district," she said, urging property owners to review their tax statements to see how much money they send the solid waste district every year. "They have their own budget with budget hearings just like the county and cities. If you're upset about (trash disposal), you should be going to those budget hearings."

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