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January 21, 2014 8:21 am

Past time for city to make landfill choice

Written by Ilene Olson

Continued debate over where the city of Powell will take its trash for the next one to six years appears at times to have deteriorated to the level of a soap opera drama.

It seems some city leaders would do almost anything to avoid giving the bid for the city’s solid waste disposal to Park County. But it’s hard to believe that they would even consider going so far — literally — as to send Powell’s trash to Casper. Yet, that option is one of three being considered as the council reviews bids it received earlier this month for landfill tipping fees and for hauling garbage-filled trailers from Powell’s transfer station.

On the surface, there is some justification for that. Casper’s bid of $37 per ton with a one-time fee of $293,000 (essentially a fee for joining an organization), or $48.10 without a fee, is far superior to Park County’s minimum bid of $72 per ton with a six-year contract.

But, when you add in the costs for hauling the trash-filled trailer from Powell’s new transfer station to each landfill — 460 miles round trip to the landfill in Casper versus 50 miles to and from the landfill in Cody — it becomes evident that Park County’s minimum bid actually will cost the city less than hauling its trash to Casper.

Other factors also speak loudly against accepting the Casper bid, including the wear and tear to the transfer station’s trailer if it were hauled 460 miles several times per week, and other concerns, such as problems the city would have to deal with when storms closed highways between Powell and Casper.

We believe there will be other costs as well, including a continuing rift and one-upmanship between the county and the city — two entities that should be working together for the sake of their common residents. Given that environment, Powell eventually could find itself paying for the county’s loss of tipping fees in ways city leaders have not yet considered.

But those things seemed lost on Mayor Don Hillman and some members of the Powell City Council during discussions with the Park County Commission last week.

Powell city officials were angry then that Park County commissioners refused to give a discount to Powell, Meeteetse and Clark to help compensate those municipalities for having to haul their trash to the Cody landfill after their landfills were closed, despite earlier assurances that they would.

During his election campaign in 2010, Commissioner Tim French said, “We will subsidize Powell, because it’s only fair,” and he said everyone on the Park County Commission agreed.

But last year, county commissioners, including French, stuck to their take-it-or-leave-it $90 per ton tipping rate, while the town of Cowley submitted a bid for $78 per ton. Powell then began hauling its trash to Cowley.

Later, some Powell city leaders said they would have remained with Park County if commissioners had been willing to provide even a $5 per-ton discount to the city.

Well, this year, Park County has done much better than that, but Hillman and some councilmen still are hesitant to sign a contract with the county. They say it is because they want to see if the 2014 Legislature will pass any landfill-related bills next month, and they want more time to consider both bids.

But that hesitance seems to us to be largely a holdover from the anger and turmoil over the issue for the past several years.

Still, Hillman makes a good point. Before Powell began hauling its trash to Cowley, “we were talking about (Park County) tipping fees going up to over $100, $114 (per ton) ... so we must have done something right.”

Powell City Councilman Josh Shorb spoke in favor of taking the county’s bid. He said the deal on the table is well thought out, it gives the city the ability to control its own destiny for at least six years, and it builds Park County’s infrastructure.

We agree. It’s time now to do the best thing for the city and for the county — put the past in the past and resume taking Powell’s trash to the Park County landfill.

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