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Clark residents ask county to continue trash site

Some Clark residents are calling on Park County commissioners to give them a place to keep dumping their trash when the Clark landfill closes to household waste this fall.

Commissioners have not committed to providing any service for household trash after the Clark landfill closes to such waste on Sept. 18. Some have expressed reluctance to go beyond running the landfills and get into the trash “transportation” business.

But citizens who spoke at a meeting last week on the future of the Clark landfill urged commissioners to provide a central place for them to dump their household garbage — such as roll-off bins.

“That decision really hasn’t been made,” said Commissioner Dave Burke at the March 28 meeting, adding, “It’s somewhat a matter of cost, and it’s still in the discussion stage.”

Dominic Whitham of Clark said he didn’t think residents would have a problem with a modest rate hike, and if the costs of providing the bins were being passed on to users, “it wouldn’t cost the county anything.”

“What’s the problem?” Whitham asked.

“We discussed it,” said Park County Regional Landfill Manager Tim Waddell. “At this point, we’re not getting into the transportation business is the best way I can put it.”

Waddell noted that folks on the North and South Forks are not provided roll-off bins and are responsible for getting their waste taken care of.

“If the county was to haul Clark, then you’ve got to do it for everybody and I... I don’t know,” said Waddell. “Like I said, it’s been a point of contention since we started on the plan four, five years ago.”

“Please at least consider that possibility,” Clark resident Carl Cook said of roll-off bins.

Commissioners will indeed consider it during a discussion at a meeting with staff next Tuesday.

The current plan is for the Clark landfill to remain open to dry garbage known as construction and demolition waste and some other materials, but household garbage — the stuff that rots — will not be allowed. The same thing is planned for the Powell landfill.

Landfill staff and commissioners slated the Clark meeting in part to explain why the closure is happening.

“This has been coming now three or four years as the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) moves toward regionalization and lining (landfills),” said Waddell. “It’s just not economically feasible to line Clark to have a place for MSW (household trash). There’s just not enough.”

With the new DEQ policies, aimed at protecting groundwater, “unfortunately, the small landfills are the casualty,” Waddell said. He added that the DEQ is essentially following rules from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

If the county does not provide roll-off bins at the site, Clark residents will need to begin bringing their trash to the Park County Regional Landfill in Cody or hire a private hauler to do it.

Those options didn’t seem to sit well with the roughly 30 people at the Clark Pioneer Recreation Center, judging by their comments throughout the two-hour meeting.

Only Keele Sanitation offers trash pickup in the Clark area.

Two Tough Guys Services owner Otto Goldbach said that unless the demand is strong enough, coming into the area and competing with Keele would end up with the work not being profitable for either business.

“It’s such a small community and there’s a big space between Cody and here to build up a route,” Goldbach said at the meeting.

Pricing for Keele Sanitation’s every-other-week service in Clark starts at $38 a month for a bear-proof garbage cart, $45 for two carts, and goes up from there for up to 10-yard containers, said Chuck Keele. (For comparison, city of Powell residents pay $31.10, with service multiple times a week.)

Whitham objected to having to pay the rates for a private hauler, saying he would effectively go from paying $180 a year for his current permit to dump at the landfill to $600 a year with Keele. Whitham also questioned whether garbage trucks could reach his house year-round on Line Creek.

“Part of it’s a lifestyle choice,” offered Commissioner Bucky Hall. “I chose to live in the city limits.”

“That’s bogus,” said Whitham, adding, “Buy out my house for $2.4 million, and we’ll get a landfill built.”

Cook asked if the county had done its due diligence in looking at the impacts of closing the landfill.

“It just seems from what I hear so far — and nothing against you personally, sir — but it just doesn’t sound like you’ve done a good job,” Cook told Waddell.

“Cody isn’t the only part of Park County,” added one woman. “You’re taking services away from us.”

She said she would not pay a private hauler for her one bag of garbage a month and would not drive 80 miles round-trip to Cody.

Cody was chosen as the regional site because 1) it receives the most county trash and 2) it was far cheaper to line than Powell because of its soil.

Resident Jim Melton said the county had “shortchanged the citizens” in Clark.

“Eight hundred people in this town don’t matter, that is what you’re saying, sir,” said Whitham, adding, “The county has a responsibility to provide that service to the town of Clark.”

“You’re going to find more in the hills than you are in the dump,” warned another resident of the closure.

“That’s why we have the sheriff’s department, I guess,” said Waddell.

“You’re not going to find it,” responded the man.

Commissioner Chairman Tim French, as he has in the past, argued that illegal dumping will not be that big a problem when the landfill cells close. He said residents take pride in their properties and those of their neighbors.

However, he and Waddell both sympathized with the arguments of Clark residents against closure, saying they’d said the same things to the DEQ.

“We fought and fought and fought to keep them (the landfills) all open ... and we lost that battle,” French said.

However, he said the county did better than it could have in building a regional site in Cody.

“That way we could keep the landfill in Park County versus saying take your garbage to Billings, or take your garbage to Casper, and say good luck,” French said, though he acknowledged to the Clark audience that, “Yeah, it’s a ways to go.”

Clark and Powell are facing a less painful future than Meeteese; when the county closed the Meeteetse landfill in July 2010, it shut down the entire site — including the construction and demolition pit — for good.

Hall, in a Tuesday interview, said that the only places the commission will discuss putting roll-off bins are in Clark and Powell, as those are places where the county plans to keep on landfill staff who’d be able to manage access to them.

“It’s out of the question in Meeteetse,” Hall said.

The county has a hauler provide a gated roll-off bin in Crandall that’s taken to Cody.

Roll-off bins likely wouldn’t work for the large volume of Powell city trash. The city will build a transfer station for when the Powell landfill closes to household waste this fall.

Editor's note: This version clarifies that commissioners will discuss the prospect of roll-off bins during their Tuesday meeting with landfill staff.

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