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February 06, 2014 8:32 am

Park County drops appeal of Big Horn County landfill permit

Written by CJ Baker

Seeing the issue as now moot, Park County commissioners have dropped their appeal of a state decision that allows a Big Horn County landfill to accept trash from the city of Powell.

Commission Chairman Bucky Hall said that getting Big Horn County’s permit overturned “was a pretty big uphill climb for us” and the commissioners have decided “to go a different direction.”

Hall also noted that Big Horn County has indicated it’s uninterested in accepting Powell’s trash in the future.

“At this point, why do we continue to challenge that when they (Big Horn County) have publicly said, ‘We’re not going to take Powell’s garbage’?” Hall asked rhetorically.

In a Monday interview with the Tribune, Big Horn County Commission Chairman Jerry Ewen confirmed the county has no plans to again seek Powell’s trash.

“I think we’re pretty settled on that,” Ewen said.

City of Powell leaders chose to take the city’s trash to Cowley last year after concluding that going there at $78 a ton would save about $63,000 over going to Cody for $90 a ton.

In March, Park County commissioners challenged the decision from landfill regulators that allows the Cowley site to accept Powell’s trash. Commissioners argued the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was unfairly letting the unlined Cowley landfill become a regional collection site and creating an uneven playing field. The commission contended the Cowley site needed to be upgraded to the same standards as a larger landfill — like the one in Cody — if it was going to accept more trash; the Department of Environmental Quality had said the Cowley site didn’t need those upgrades.

At Park County’s request, the case was formally dismissed on Jan. 23.

The county incurred $13,800.77 in legal fees in using the services of an outside attorney with the Cheyenne law firm Davis and Cannon LLP.

Ewen said Big Horn County spent “almost nothing” during the appeal process, which had yet to really ramp up. Big Horn County’s civil attorney handled the county’s legal filings.

The city of Powell is now mulling whether to take its trash to the city of Casper’s facility or to Park County’s site in Cody. Those were the two landfills that submitted offers.

Cody appears to be the cheaper option (now at $72 a ton) if the city commits to a long-term contract, but Powell Mayor Don Hillman has said he wants to wait and see if the Legislature changes landfill regulations during its upcoming session.

Ewen doesn’t think the Legislature’s actions will affect Big Horn County’s decision to stop taking Powell’s garbage. He said the county is waiting to see what help the state will provide for landfills.

“The process is all extremely expensive — very difficult for small counties, municipalities, whoever’s handling the garbage,” Ewen said.

“We would like to see the counties and municipalities in the Big Horn Basin eventually get together and work together towards a large, centrally located landfill where an economy of scale can be reached,” Ewen added.

Park County commissioners have said they hope the Cody facility becomes the region’s trash hub.

Big Horn County Solid Waste Disposal District Manager Gary Grant told KODI-AM last month that “it all comes down to where the money is.

“Wherever’s cheapest is where we’ll be going,” Grant told the radio station.

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