For decades, the Park County-run landfills in Powell and Cody have freely accepted old appliances, dirt, batteries, oil, brush, wood and the remains of pets. But the days of freebies are coming to an …
For decades, the Park County-run landfills in Powell and Cody have freely accepted old appliances, dirt, batteries, oil, brush, wood and the remains of pets. But the days of freebies are coming to an end.
Starting March 1, “no one’s going to be able to come in [to the landfills] for less than $5,” explained Park County Landfill Office Manager Sandie Morris.
Commissioners approved the new $5 minimum fee with the intent of raising some extra money — expected to be somewhere between $29,000 and $38,000 — for the county’s tight general fund.
Landfill Manager Tim Waddell said the fee will help cover the expenses associated with every load — such as staff time, fuel and the hundreds of dollars worth of paper he buys each year for printed tickets. To date, roughly a third of the 20,000 annual tickets issued at the Powell and Cody sites have carried no charge, Waddell told commissioners on Jan. 21.
Commissioner Lloyd Thiel said the new charge would “kind of level the playing field for everybody coming through, plus recover a little bit of the cost and overhead that it takes for every little garbage sack that comes through there.”
With the exception of a couple landfills, “everybody in the state” has a minimum fee in place, Waddell said. He believes the fee will encourage customers to consolidate their trash into fewer, larger loads; some people may choose to burn their own brush and wood instead of bringing it to the landfill, he said.
“If you’re going to come, bring a load — don’t come out with a sack or a couple tumbleweeds, that kind of thing,” Waddell said, adding that $5 is still “a pretty good deal” for a trailer-load of brush.
Commissioners had also explored the idea of instituting a $5 scale fee, which would have simply tacked $5 onto every load brought to the landfill — potentially bringing in as much as $150,000 a year.
However, Waddell noted that imposing such a scale fee would effectively more than reverse the rate decrease that the commission approved last year for household trash (from $78 to $74 a ton). That’s one reason why Thiel — who had championed the drop in rates — was opposed to a scale fee.
“I don’t think we need to gouge them [the customers] … just for extra,” he said. “I know we need to make money, but I just don’t feel that the landfill, to increase revenue, is the right place to do it.”
The landfill operates as an enterprise fund, meaning that it’s funded entirely by the fees from the customers who use the site and other revenue it collects. However, in recent years, commissioners have been eyeing the landfill as a potential source of revenue for the general county budget.
In 2018, commissioners began collecting a 5% “franchise fee” to help cover the cost of landfill-related work performed by other officials, like the commission, county engineer and clerk’s office; the fee brought $91,350 into the general fund last fiscal year.
It’s a common practice among local governments. For instance, the City of Powell’s Sanitation Fund sent $227,247 back to the city’s general fund last year (equal to about 15% of total revenues) as a “management fee.”
Commission Chairman Joe Tilden had wanted the county to raise its franchise fee to 10%, but landfill overseers warned that taking another 5% without raising rates or fees would potentially create a funding shortfall in the future.
While no final decision was made last month, commissioners indicated that they plan to siphon away whatever new revenue is raised by the minimum fee.
“If it’s $40,000, we’ll transfer $40,000 right into the general fund,” said Tilden.