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Tribes asked to finalize plan to take over trash sites

Mar 11, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

The tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation are offering to take over management of the county trash transfers stations on the reservation.

The Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District board on Feb. 29 asked Wind River Environmental Quality Commission solid waste coordinator Ryan Ortiz to finalize a proposal for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to take over management of four transfer stations by April 9, when the board meets again.

Throughout the meeting, Ortiz referenced elements of a plan he had been developing that would put the tribes in control of the reservation's transfer stations at Fort Washakie, 17 Mile Road, Ethete and Crowheart.

"We have a grant to build a facility out at Fort Washakie," Ortiz said, referencing a $1 million grant obtained by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

The plan would involve manning the transfer stations, with the exception of Crowheart, for at least part of the workday. Mobile equipment at each site would compact the trash, which then would be sorted at the Fort Washakie station.

The trash ultimately would travel to either of the county's landfills. where the tribes would pay for disposal with their own funds.

Solid waste district attorney Rick Sollars said the reservation's transfer stations would be on equal footing in terms of financial contributions as others in the county by having its trash going over scales at the landfills.

Solid waste board members have noted problems with the varying amounts -- some woefully inadequate -- of money collected at each of the transfer stations.

Ortiz proposes to set two bins at Crowheart and only pick up the trash when the containers are full, to decrease operational costs. He also plans for the transfer stations to be closed at night.

A couple of individuals raised concern over people dumping their trash at the gates of the transfer stations in the evening.

Ortiz said the tribal Joint Business Council is working on a law and order code that would include enforcement against illegal dumping.

"We have a fine structure set up," he said.

Construction debris would remain at Fort Washakie and would travel to either landfill.

The goal of the changes, board member Dave Hines said, would be to update the contract with the tribes and to try to cut costs. The current contract was signed in 1996.

Ortiz said the district would still be expected to help pay for operational funds. Board chairman Mike Adams asked if that included employee wages, to which Ortiz said yes.

Board member Jeff Hermansky asked if it would be possible to combine any of the transfer sites, which might include closing Ethete, to help cut costs.

"It would be a political nightmare to close that transfer station and leave Fort Washakie open," Ortiz responded.

He determined the total operational cost of his plan would be about $460,000 annually.

Ortiz believes about $380,000 in tribal royalty money each year goes to the county, a figure he received from the Fremont County Assessor's Office. He said it could be argued those funds should be put back into services for the reservation.

"The tribes are going to say it's more than that," he said. "I don't really care. ... That's my personal opinion."

Hines said the district needs to know the current operating costs so the board could make an educated decision on the plan.

The board instructed solid waste district superintendent Andrew Frey to determine those figures by April 9.

Ortiz had requested not calling the proposal a reservation plan, instead referring to it as "quadrant one or A" of the county's overall solid waste plan.

"The observation that the amount of tax revenue is irrelevant is the way to treat this," Sollars said. "I think just treat these four as a quad."

Board member Dick Rodgers liked some of Ortiz's ideas and stressed that progress needed to be made with the contract.

"How would you feel if the board terminated this contract?" Adams asked Ortiz.

A six-month notice is required, according to the terms of the current contract, should either party end the agreement. Adams reasoned that terminating contract was terminated would force both parties to come up with an agreement in a timely manner.

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Wind River Indian Reservation