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April 27, 2010 3:45 am

Powell landfill closure not til 2012, county says

Written by Tribune Staff

Trash service is expected to continue as usual for the next two and a half a years, as the Powell landfill has received an extension on its life.

In a letter sent to Powell Mayor Scott Mangold last week, Park County commissioners said a recently-completed survey shows there is enough space at the Powell landfill to continue accepting waste until Sept. 18, 2012 — and the state Department of Environmental Quality has indicated that it is OK with the plan.

The commissioners said the new deadline gives the city of Powell and area residents additional time to address the increased costs that will come from transporting trash to the Park County Regional Landfill outside of Cody. The Cody site is currently being lined and upgraded to meet state and federal water quality standards, and the plan is for the site to ultimately be the dumping ground for all the county's household waste.

Meeteetse's landfill is slated to close when the new Cody cell is ready this summer, and Powell's could have been scheduled for closure around that time. But the commission took the Department of Environmental Quality up on an offer to extend the Powell site's permit.

Powell Mayor Mangold said the city is pleased the county opted to extend the Powell landfill until 2012, giving Powell “a little bit of time” to prepare for the prospect of hauling its trash to Cody.

“But it is a little bit of time. It's going to be a major problem for us,” Mangold said.

More stringent water quality regulations taking effect require that landfills in the state generally install liners and monitoring equipment to keep liquid garbage runoff from reaching groundwater. In a study, the county found that upgrading the Cody site was the most cost-efficient way to meet those requirements, with the county's other sites closing to household waste.

Post-closure, the trash previously accepted in Powell, Meeteetse and Clark will need to be taken to Cody, with the municipalities responsible for getting their trash there.

“The ongoing desire of the (Board of County Commissioners) is to meet the demands of this unfunded mandate by the state DEQ with the least financial impact to the citizens of Park County,” the commission wrote in its letter to Powell officials.

The letter says the county plans to charge citizens who live outside of a 25-mile radius from the Cody landfill a lesser tipping fee to compensate for the cost of transportation.

On Friday, Commissioner Bucky Hall said the 25-mile radius around the landfill is more a “theoretical exercise” at this point, rather than a number set in stone. The intent is to have Powell, Meeteetse and Clark outside of whatever radius is created.

County tipping fees increased from $60 to $90 a ton last year, and are scheduled to rise 8 percent every five years to account for costs.

Municipal officials around the county had discussed the possibility of using a capital facilities tax to keep garbage rates down and build transfer infrastructure in Powell, Meeteetse and Clark to reduce trash-hauling trips. But a majority of the Park County Commission questioned the cost-effectiveness of transfer stations, and opposed using any form of a capital facilities tax for landfill improvements.

The most-discussed option, one that appeared to have the backing of all three municipalities, was an $18 million tax that would include $14 million to buy down tipping fees and $4 million to build a transfer station in Powell, purchase transfer materials in Clark and Meeteetse and expand recycling efforts in Cody. But the day before the cities were to pitch the idea to the commission, Powell Councilman Josh Shorb, a member of the landfill tax committee, met with Commissioners Jill Shockley Siggins and Hall. The commissioners expressed concern with the three options Shorb presented — including a $10 million tax that would have only been used to buy down tipping fees. With none of the options having enough support from commissioners, Shorb pulled the proposals from the commission's April 6 agenda.

“It (a landfill tax proposal) is dead for the time being,” Shorb said last week.