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County seeks Legislature’s help on landfills

As state legislators gather in Cheyenne for the 2011 session this month, Park County commissioners have asked, as outgoing Commission Chairman Jill Shockley Siggins put it, “that they not forget us” in dealing with landfills.

In a recent letter sent to lawmakers locally and across the state, county commissioners asked lawmakers to “continue to keep local communities and counties in your thoughts and legislative actions” as efforts to clean up and regionalize the state’s landfills continue.

 

 

Over roughly the past year, the county spent nearly $4.1 million digging new waste cells and upgrading the Cody landfill — in large part to meet new state regulations protecting groundwater from garbage run-off.

To help meet those costs, county commissioners in 2009 raised landfill tipping fees from $60 per ton to $90 per ton; county landfill consultants have said rates will need to be raised to $114 a ton to meet ongoing and expected future costs.

Commissioners decided to make the Cody site the county’s regional landfill after a solid waste management study showed making similar upgrades to the Powell, Clark and Meeteetse landfills would be cost-prohibitive. The Meeteetse landfill was closed at the end of June and the county expects to close the cells for household waste in Powell and Clark when their current state permits expire in the summer of 2012. That will require those communities to haul their household waste to Cody or elsewhere.

In the letter to legislators, which was drafted by consultant Holm, Blough and Co., the county said it has received “considerable push back and angst” from local communities due to the 2009 rate hike.

“When considering that these fees/rates do not include any funding or consideration for transportation as a result of the regionalization, our local communities and citizens are struggling with how they will pay for the increased costs of disposal,” the commission wrote.

Further, “it is more troubling to us as local officials that this is not the end of the need or associated expenditure(s),” they said.

Specifically, Park County commissioners pointed to a projected $7 million bill over the next five years to close its unlined trash cells across the county — the old Cody trash cell and the cells in Powell, Clark and Meeteetse.

“The hard fact is, closure/post-closure is going to cost us an enormous amount of money,” said Commissioner Dave Burke at the commission’s Dec. 21 meeting.

At the suggestion of Commissioner-elect Loren Grosskopf, who took office this week, commissioners removed a line from their letter stating that Park County is “in better financial circumstances than other areas in Wyoming.”

“The way it’s worded, it’s almost like, if we have the money to (cover) all those costs, why write the letter?” Grosskopf said, saying Park County is in the same boat as the rest of Wyoming’s counties.

At the meeting and in a later interview, Commissioner Bucky Hall said that while Park County is one of the first to deal with the landfill requirements, the $7 million the county needs to close its landfills is “basically just a drop in the bucket compared to what other places need.” He predicted the Legislature will ultimately provide some funding to all of the landfill owners across the state.

In an interview last week, state Rep. Dave Bonner, R-Powell, echoed Hall’s prediction, saying there is strong support in the Legislature to aid counties with landfill lining and clean up.

Bonner, who is the publisher of the Tribune, said those costs will be borne “across the board.” Counties, he said, “are not just going to be left to deal with it completely on their own.”

Bonner said he did not know what form the support would take, but indicated an ongoing source of funding for landfills might be necessary. He noted Wyoming funds a clean-up program for underground fuel storage tanks by assessing a 1-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel.

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