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Commissioners, solid waste leaders spar on changes

Commissioners, solid waste leaders spar on changes at trash stations

Nov 10, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commissioners were critical of changes made this year to save money for the local solid waste district.

The officials heard about the new developments during a Nov.5 meeting with Andy Frey, superintendent for the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District. During the meeting, Frey said it wouldn't make sense to modify the changes in order to address commissioners' concerns.

Transfer station hours

The district has saved money this year by limiting open hours at area transfer stations.

The stations, which used to be accessible 24 hours per day, are now available for use once each week.

As a result, the district made 1,071 fewer trips to haul waste from the transfer stations, saving $258,000 in hauling costs and reducing travel miles by 80,000.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson wondered how residents were coping with the change.

"It's like where is all that (trash) going?" he asked. "Is it being illegally dumped? Is it being burned? Is it being buried in their back yard?"

Illegal dumping has become more common since transfer station hours were limited, but Frey said the only way the district can address that problem is by waiving user fees, which pay for half of the solid waste budget.

Property taxes make up the rest of the district's revenue stream.

Lysite concerns

Commissioner Larry Allen agreed that reduced service hours at transfer stations might cause some people to dump trash illegally. He said the Lysite transfer station, which he uses, is only open for four hours on one day each week.

Allen asked if the Lysite station could be open longer. He suggested a volunteer could run the station, or users could dump trash there without an attendant and leave money based on the honor system.

Frey said it would be impractical to increase hours at the remote Lysite location, which receives so little traffic that user fees don't cover the cost of operations.

More staff at the site would only increase the losses, he continued, and the district would have to pay to train volunteers. He also thought volunteers could cause accountability issues.

Frey added that the honor system has been "tried and failed" in Fremont County. The district brought in $18,000 more in revenue through transfer stations this year because attendants enforced user fees.

"That was a result of accountability," Frey said. "When you have to pay for your waste, you tend to create less."

He also pointed to a recent policy that gives discounts to users who bring recyclable materials to transfer stations. The change led an increase in recycling efforts by residents, who diverted 1,200 tons of waste from entering local landfills.

More cost-saving

A contract signed in July with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes led to financial improvements for the district as well.

The agreement put the tribes in charge of operations at four transfer stations on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

During the first three months after the contract was signed, the solid waste district brought in $28,000 more revenue and made 426 fewer trips to the four reservation stations, resulting in 22,000 fewer miles traveled and saving about $72,000 in hauling costs.

Frey also told commissioners he intends to increase the fine assessed for transporting unsecured loads of trash. The fee was set at $5 this year, but it will go up to $8 effective Jan. 1.

Though the fine is unpopular, Frey said it is easy to avoid. He said residents simply need to make some attempt to tie down their loads, by placing ropes over loose branches or large objects in truck beds.

"Basically any type of effort is considered," Frey said.

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