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Official suggests longer hours at trash transfer sites

Jun 5, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District's superintendent has proposed adding a day of operation each month at some transfer stations amid concerns over the new limited hours.

"We're trying to service them just as often as we can within reason," said superintendent Andy Frey. "It really is just as much as staffing can allow."

Last month, the district's board approved changes at most trash transfer stations in the county. The financially-motivated move means the sites will be open for two to three days a month instead of 24 hours a day, every day.

Affected sites

The sites with the reduced hours are Atlantic City, Jeffrey City, Hudson, Missouri Valley, Pavillion, Lysite and Shoshoni. The Dubois station is not affected, and the four sites on the Wind River Indian Reservation are part of ongoing negotiations for tribal management of them.

Frey said he recommended the extra day at certain sites each month, but the changes were not part of the resolution containing the language for the new hours.

The solid waste board must still decide whether to approve the proposed changes he created in May, he said.

"The additional times are requested to assist with busier sites, tourism, and hunting season," according to a posting of the operational hours at the affected transfer stations on the solid waste district's website.

The board will discuss transfer stations during its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, June 11, at the Lander landfill offices, 52 Beebee Road.

Many complaints

The proposed extra days followed numerous complaints and concerns levied at the district following the board's approval of the transfer station changes during its meeting May 14. The changes took effect June 1.

At the May meeting an Atlantic City couple said the changes at their transfer station will lead to overflowing trash in their community during high-traffic summer months. Some county commissioners also questioned the board's actions.

District board vice chairman Jerry Crews said he has heard about other complaints received by board members. He and board member Mike Morgan voted against the changes.

"We didn't discuss, we didn't give these people from Atlantic City time to discuss the dilemma. I've never been comfortable with it," Crews said. "I think maybe we can get some argument now in terms of trying to find some compromise."

Past trustee concerned

Some of the latest criticism is from former solid waste board member and vice chairman Dale Groutage, who has said the district is victimizing its constituents.

"Balancing the budget on the backs of good folks in our community by charging for recycling, who are enthusiastic about recycling, is the dumbest damn idea that I've heard of," Groutage said, referring to the board's decision to charge for electronic-waste disposal.

"And likewise, balancing the budget on the backs of the rural folks by curtailing access to transfer stations falls in the same category -- a damn dumb idea," he said.

Groutage, who served on the board for nine years and quit in January after failing to be elected chairman, said the changes that include adjusting disposal fees will not work.

"These ideas will barely scratch or make a noticeable dent in generating revenue, but will generate a magnet for illegal dumping of trash in rural areas," he said.

During his final months on the board he strongly pushed for manning the transfer stations and other changes to collect fees at the sites. Groutage also suggested increasing the disposal fee by 1 cent a pound.

"Adding 1 cent per pound for solid waste coming across the scales would generate $1 million of additional revenue, which is based on 50,000 tons of waste per year (collected by the district)," Groutage said.

Years ago, the board decided to implement the pay-as-you-throw system and installed scales at the landfills to collect fees and boost revenues, he said.

"When Jim Hedges and I were on the solid waste board, we established an infrastructure to generate revenue while encouraging recycling and providing the means for our rural folks to dispose of their trash," he said.

Cutting the transfer station hours instead of focusing on using the scales is the wrong way to go, Groutage said.

"I don't know where these ideas come from. There's a great infrastructure in place, and it's so simple. And there's no vision or leadership on the board, and they turn around and go backward," he said.

Groutage also criticized the board for its decision to begin charging for disposal of electronic waste, which costs district customers 30 cents a pound.

The board in the past decided to offer free e-waste disposal of computers, monitors and other equipment to avoid illegal dumping elsewhere, he said.

"As a concerned citizen, I find the proposals of the board to be counterproductive and will do little to increase revenue, while at the same time will do nothing but encourage trash in the ravines in the rural parts of the county and old TVs and other electronic trash to end up alongside our roads and highways, creating toxic hazards to our environment," Groutage said.

With the decision to charge for e-waste, "they end up destroying our environment for the sake of a few dollars the board wants to collect," he said.

"When you penalize people by taking away their enthusiasm to step forward and recycle by penalizing them, it does nobody any good. It doesn't help the county, it doesn't help the people, it doesn't help the environment," he said.

Frey said the costs for e-waste disposal range from 25 cents to 40 cents per pound for the district.

"For us to dispose of electronic waste with a vendor, it's always had a significant cost. We're just trying to cover that cost," he said.

Frey said estimates of how much the district will save with the decreased hours at transfer stations are "unpredictable" because of varied use at the sites.

"It's not our intent to offend anybody. It's not our intent to make anyone's life more difficult. We're just trying to operate within reason," Frey said.

Groutage thinks the district board already trashed any idea of reason with the latest changes.

"They're penalizing the people of Fremont County because of their lack of vision and leadership and that is unacceptable, especially when the infrastructure is already in place to manage this," Groutage said.

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