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Varied schedule at transfer stations examined by officials

Jul 17, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The district is operating the seven sites on a rotating schedule where one location is open each day of the week, but not always the same day.

Fremont County Commissioner Dennis Christensen questioned the wisdom of creating a new schedule for area trash transfer stations that means they're open on seemingly random days each month.

"I feel like you're setting yourself up for failure by not having a set schedule," Christensen told members of the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District attending the commission's meeting July 10.

"I think people can adjust their schedules more so than saying it's Tuesday this week" and another day next week, Christensen said.

Solid waste district officials met with commissioners to discuss ongoing concerns with the transfer stations and other challenges that face the trash agency.

Board chairman Mike Adams said the new schedule for seven of the district's transfer sites allows for more pickups, almost once a week at each station.

The district is operating the seven sites on a rotating schedule where one location is open each day of the week. In the winter, the schedule condenses to five days a week because less trash will be collected.

"We changed the hours around to help accommodate the people that had concerns about the hours they could make," Adams said.

When Christensen asked about the rotating schedule, Adams said the reason is "because everybody wanted a weekend day."

Adams was asked why the district doesn't use volunteers to staff transfer stations to increase their efficiency.

"Truthfully, I don't know why the board hasn't looked into that more. I just can't answer that. I don't know," he said.

District superintendent Andy Frey said the reason is because the state imposes standards on employees who handle solid waste.

Additionally, the volunteers would need to collect cash at the sites from patrons.

"There was a fear for auditing purposes" about using the volunteers to handle money, Frey said.

Commissioner Travis Becker asked why the rates at the transfer stations exceed the fees charged within municipalities.

Rick Sollars, the lawyer for the solid waste district, said transportation costs come into play at the transfer stations.

"When a person brings their waste to one of the baler facilities, they're doing the transportation themselves," he said.

The district charges a minimum flat rate of $5 for up to 200 pounds of household waste at the baling facilities and landfills, and 4 cents a pound for excess. The transfer stations are $5 for up to two bags of household waste or $10 for a delivery by a car or pickup beyond two bags.

Becker also questioned the change in revenue experienced by the district since imposing the seven-day-a-week schedule for the affected transfer stations.

Commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson, who serves as the liaison to the solid waste district, said the amount for June at the seven sites was about $2,000 "versus very little under the old system."

"It's still too early to see, seems like the answer we got last night," Hickerson said, referring to the solid waste district's meeting July 9.

Becker wondered if the district can cover its expenses with the revenues.

"I think the answer is no," Hickerson replied. "The revenue will never cover the expenses."

Adams said the costs are falling for the district's operation of the transfer stations.

With the three-mill levy imposed by the district on property owners in the county, "the revenue picture is kind of blurry, I think," Hickerson said.

"To try to somehow say this transfer station isn't paying its way is hard to say that because the residents around there are paying their three mills," he said.

The district continues to face financial challenges associated with closure costs for the landfills operated in the county.

"The truth of the matter is the board has a huge liability for closure and post-closure" costs with the landfills, Hickerson said. "We need to have about $6 million in savings just to do closure and post-closure" that is lacking in the district's budget.

"That is the big issue: How do we pay for closure and post-closure, and how do we pay for development of a new site?" Hickerson said.

Sollars said the district must close the Lander landfill at the end of 2024, while Sand Draw's existing 80-acre site east of Riverton must close by 2037. Sand Draw has an expansion area, but questions remain about using the site.

District board member Jeff Hermansky recalled when the county had 40 trash dumping sites -- most of them illegal. The board closed 30 of the sites and operated 10 landfills, he said.

"Fremont County has got a really difficult situation," Hermansky said, noting the funding challenges associated with having a large area and a small population.

"I don't know if the public fully grasps that," he said. "We're trying to provide the service to everybody" at a reasonable cost.

He expressed optimism about the changes imposed by the district's board.

"I feel very strongly what we're implementing here is a workable solution," he said. "I do believe the public will get on board and find that the system will work."