Grand County negotiating to send all solid waste to Front Range
May 14, 2008
Grand County may be shipping its waste to the Front Range if upcoming negotiations lead officials to sign on with Waste Management, a $3.2 billion company with 21 million customers in North America.
Out of two rounds of spring bid proposals, the second narrowed the county’s options to creating a transfer station on county-owned property with officials leaning toward Waste Management to process trash and recycling for its residents.
Waste Management has operated in Grand County for 12 years.
The proposal includes the construction and installation of a transfer station on Grand County property. Commissioners directed Road and Bridge Supervisor Ken Haynes to enter into negotiations to work toward a contract with Waste Management during Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.
But during discussion prior to the vote, local recycling and waste expert Liz McIntyre cautioned county commissioners about the adequacy of its site and its ability to meet long-term goals of the county.
The site is a two-acre parcel west of the existing landfill on state Highway 125, about one mile from the dump area near Coyote Creek.
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With the footprint of the site, there would be much to develop in the future, she said, to meet the needs that come along with expected future growth.
“In 10 years, if it doesn’t meet our needs, who will pay?” McIntyre asked, adding that the taxpayers in the long run may become liable for decisions made today.
McIntyre was involved with one of the bids in the first round, helping to supply the recycling component for Twin Enviro Services of Steamboat Springs.
When the county revised its proposal in mid-April to focus on a transfer station in lieu of a landfill site with a May 1 deadline, Twin Enviro dropped out due to an inability to provide county-requested cost information in the given time frame, McIntyre said.
Waste Management’s proposal, released Tuesday, does not contain cost and schedule information either because of the tight deadline.
Commissioners and County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran clarified during Tuesday’s meeting that the county’s intent is ultimately to maintain control of county waste and recycling by owning the land on which a future facility operates so that Grand County always has a stake in what happens with landfill waste.
“I do anticipate the county will put money into this in some way,” Commissioner James Newberry said, adding that in the quest to provide waste management and recycling in Grand County, the current process is the “avenue to get there.”
In addition, engineers are studying whether the current site is the right one, said Commissioner Nancy Stuart.
The Waste Management proposal, pending further negotiations, states that the facility would have two bays for tipping and loading, one for municipal solid waste, the other for recycling. Waste would be hauled via transfer trailers to a solid-waste facility in the Denver area. It is anticipated that five semi-trucks per day would transfer both commercial and residential waste to the Front Range.
According to the Grand County Road and Bridge Department, Grand County generates about 110 tons of municipal solid waste each day.
Waste Management outlined back-up plans if inclement weather caused the closing of Berthoud Pass.
The proposal also includes residential and commercial single-stream recycling, meaning recycling could be co-mingled rather than pre-sorted. That too would be transported to one of Waste Management’s recycling facilities in Denver.
“With the county’s support, WMC would propose to work with each municipality within the county in obtaining franchise agreements for collecting recyclables within their boundaries,” the proposal states. “We are confident this approach would enable WMC to provide the added convenience of single-stream recycling.”
Drop-off bins for scrap metal, white goods, e-waste, tires, batteries and used oil are also proposed.
For household hazardous wastes, Waste Management says it would sponsor periodic collection events.
What does the Front Range want with Grand County’s Waste? Road and Bridge officials Haynes and Bill Clark say Grand County’s waste is wanted, and Waste Management’s landfill is so large it has a 50-year lifespan.
“It’s lucrative business,” Haynes said.
The county anticipates tipping fees being part of an operation, which could be up and running within two years, depending on the outcome of negotiations. A percentage of fees in the form of royalties may be awarded to the county for providing Waste Management the site.
“I just like the professional way they handled the original RFP, the second one and phone conversations,” Haynes said among reasons to recommend Waste Management. In talking with a counterpart in Montrose County, which has worked closely with Waste Management, Haynes said he learned the company is administratively efficient.
And in Clark’s second RFP, “they positively produced information wanted, addressing all points,” Haynes said.
“It was a tough decision, Waste Connections (another bidder) is a very good company,” Clark said.
According to the company’s Web site, the Waste Management’s network of operations includes 413 collection operations, 370 transfer stations, 283 active landfill disposal sites, 17 waste-to-energy plants, 131 recycling plants, 95 beneficial-use landfill gas projects and six independent power plants. The company is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
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