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Tribes say they're ready to try again on trash issues

Feb 18, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Long-term negotiations have stalled for months.

Wind River Environmental Quality Commission solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz hopes to move forward with the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District in finding a permanent solution for waste services on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

"We want there to be more dialogue ... get the discussion rolling," Ortiz said at the recent Solid Waste Disposal District Board of Directors meeting.

The disposal district and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes agreed in December to a six-month contract for waste collection on the reservation.

Under the agreement, the tribes pay staff to operate their transfer stations and collect fees from users, and the district hauls the waste to the county's landfills at the county's expense. Tipping fees for enrolled tribal members are waived in exchange for the tribes' salaries for staff.

The new contract follows months of negotiation attempts.

The 1996 contract with the two tribes concerning the district's management of the four transfer station sites on the reservation expired Dec. 14.

Officials hope the temporary contract helps with illegal dumping of waste and allows the tribes to track data so they can decide if they are going to continue to subsidize tipping fees for enrolled members.

The irregular operating hours didn't help the situation when the temporary contract was implemented. Ortiz said his staff is working on setting hours.

Fremont County commissioners discussed the situation Jan. 15. Chairman Doug Thompson said he has heard the sites on the reservation are closed often, which is not in accordance with the contract.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she is hearing complaints that transfer station employees are recording customers' type of vehicle, license plate number and name.

"They were (also) not pleased they had to pay," Whiteman said. "They were told if they had a tribal ID they wouldn't have to pay."

Thompson said there is a reason behind collecting the information.

"Part of that bridge contract is there's some money attached to it, but it's attached to certain volumes (of trash)," he said.

"If the tribal government wants to change the dollars, they have to present some evidence."

Commissioner Larry Allen noted that the information also is collected at the Lysite transfer station.

At the solid waste board meeting, Ortiz said he would like to see a committee formed that would look specifically at trash management on the reservation.

Anthony "Al" Addison Sr. of the Northern Arapaho Tribe Business Council attended the meeting as well to "show support" for the effort.

"I am concerned about the situation with illegal dumping," Addison said.

"It's very important that we can move forward with the solid waste program."

-- Staff writer Eric Blom contributed to this story.

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