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Select committee praises county, tribes for contract

Jul 28, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Select Committee on Tribal Relations received an update July 16 on the solid waste contract recently agreed upon by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes and the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District Board.

During the committee's meeting at the Intertribal Education and Community Center at Central Wyoming College, Wind River Environmental Quality Commission director Ryan Ortiz told committee members the contract gave full operational control of the four solid waste transfer stations on the Wind River Indian Reservation to the tribes. Final signatures were received July 15, but the contract went into effect July 1.

Going forward

Ortiz told the committee the contract is a three-year agreement that provides the tribes $250,000 a year to run the stations.

"There were barriers, but I'm glad to hear that you overcame that," said committee chairman Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete.

Sen. Cale Case asked Ortiz if there was hesitation with the contract because he thought it would be difficult for both parties to come to a conclusion.

"I don't have any apprehension going forward, but it was a long time coming," Ortiz said.

Goggles and Case commended Ortiz and Andrew Frey, the solid waste district superintendent, for their extensive work in deciding a contract.

Goggles said he was concerned that taxpayers off the reservation were being levied for services they were not receiving. He also is mindful of the illegal dumping near the transfer stations.

Northern Arapaho Business Council member Dean Goggles joined Ortiz and Frey to tell the committee that while the contract has been signed, there is another issue with which they might have to deal.

"It's going to be challenging in the future because we have a lot of illegal dumping," he said. "But I'm glad we got this far."

Eastern Shoshone Business Council member Darwin St. Clair Jr. said he was displeased when the solid waste district removed trash containers and didn't return them.

"It cost the tribes money, and I'm still not quite sure why that happened," St. Clair said. "It was very unfortunate because our community from the Fort Washakie and Ethete area had individuals that took time and effort to clean those areas up."

He added that they are excited with the agreement.

"It is a big step forward, not only for tribal sovereignty but for the services we're going to provide for our people," he said.

Open meetings

New contract agreements were postponed as the previous contract's expiration date passed and meetings between the entities became questionable.

A Wyofile reporter in attendance Tuesday expressed concern he and other local media outlets had with an executive session held June 17 between the solid waste board and the tribes. After the closed-door meeting, the board cast a unanimous vote to continue a "bridge" contract on management of the four trash transfer stations on the reservation.

The parties involved said "potential litigation" was the reason for the executive session.

Wyoming Press Association attorney Bruce Moats said litigation must be proposed or pending to warrant such a meeting and that policy discussion must be public.

The Wyofile reporter said the board and tribes met off the reservation where the Wyoming Public Meetings Law applies and makes the meetings public.

Case said he was "equally concerned" and suggested Ortiz, Frey and the tribes release a formal statement to explain why the meetings happened in the manner that they did. Others in attendance asked if the contract would not be valid due to the circumstances of the negotiation process.

Solid waste district board member Travis Brockie said he was glad the contract was signed despite some disagreements.

"It's a good starting point," Brockie said. "I think the district has been open to the public."

Ronald Oldman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council told the board they offered to meet on the reservation without a response. The process of negotiation, he said, also left something out.

"Our tribal members' voices were not heard," Oldman said.

Eastern Shoshone tribal liaison Sara Robinson told the committee that this could have just been an "issue of communication," and it would be best not to operate on assumptions.