Grand County may get out of trash business
May 8, 2009
Grand County citizens sat for the first time in a spacious, newly renovated commissioner board room while Grand County commissioners deliberated the destiny of trash service in the growing county.
Those two elements juxtaposed marked a pivotal time as the county positions itself for the future.
Although no decision was made on Tuesday, with a continued decision-making hearing scheduled for 11 a.m., May 19, at least one commissioner shared the view that Grand County’s solution to trash service may not be wrapped in owning and building a transfer station, but to bow out and let the private trash-hauling companies take over.
“I’d be happy if we were out of the business,” said Commissioner Gary Bumgarner. “Let’s see what happens with the privateers.”
If the county adopts the change Bumgarner voiced, it would need to enter into the state process of permitting the Kremmling Landfill site for a possible landfill expansion or construction of a waste transfer site ” as a contingency ” he said, in case private trash-hauling companies ever made the decision to leave the county.
County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran advised that a 60-day notice to the state is needed before the county could start the process of mothballing the Kremmling Landfill.
Earlier in Tuesday’s proceedings, county commissioners had ruled to allow a special use permit for a transfer station at the Kremmling Landfill site, subject to 26 conditions regarding safety and aesthetic improvements.
The ruling, in effect, put the Kremmling site in play among six other proposed trash-disposal solutions the board reviewed during the second half of the meeting.
Sites the county has rejected and the reasons they were rejected, as well as possible sites under consideration were fully detailed with pros, cons, costs and mileage analyses in a prospectus the county staff prepared for citizens and commissioners.
Out of a long list, the county short-listed possibilities:
– A transfer station built on the county-owned Kremmling Landfill land ” a proposal that faced some opposition from citizens due to increased traffic;
– A transfer station in Parshall owned by Valley Recycling;
– Or a transfer station on the county-owned Hot Sulphur Springs land ” which has faced heated opposition from town citizens.
Cost estimates for the county to develop each site range from $2.4 million to $3.4 million, with the Parshall site the most expensive due to the need for purchasing the land.
According to County Finance Manager Scott Berger, Grand County has at least $2 million available out of $5 million in the county’s 2009 major capital improvement fund for whatever alternative it chooses.
Recently, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs rejected an $850,000 matching grant the county requested for a waste transfer station. Not receiving the grant from state severance tax and mineral lease revenues was a blow to county officials, who have indicated they’d counted on that money for the project.
If Grand County were to operate the sites rather than contract with a trash-hauling company to do so, an estimate of $220,000 to $240,000 would be added on to each proposal for the cost of purchasing trailers to haul trash to landfills out-of-county. The county analyzed the costs of hauling to various landfills in the Front Range and mountains and found that Allied Republic Waste Services in Golden would be the most economical, in spite of its distance.
But the solutions with the least burden on taxpayers were two that would partially or totally surrender trash service to the private sector. The county would use money it already held in escrow to close and monitor both landfills as companies such as Waste Management and The Trash Company took over all trash disposal, either hauling to a privately owned transfer station or to an out-of-county landfill.
When Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola asked if the Trash Company could handle all countywide or eastern Grand County trash, Kent Hinsey, district manager of the Trash Company replied, “We could do that. Absolutely.”
The Trash Company, with parent company Waste Connections, already has a permitted transfer-station site in the west end of Granby, but has not yet commenced construction. The intent with the site, Hinsey said, was to accommodate the 46 percent of county-wide trash the company presently hauls.
But the company is open to acquiring other land to expand its operations, he said.
Although a representative from Waste Management did not speak at the meeting, a letter from the company to the county dated May 1 suggests that it too would “begin an earnest evaluation of its options,” were the county to step out of the trash business.
Waste Management presently does not own or control land that could be used for a waste-disposal site in the area, wrote the company’s Engineering Manager Tom Schweitzer. The letter went on to say, “We do not believe the county population is large enough to support a number of waste transfer and/or disposal operations.”
On that subject, county landfill consultant Dave Douglass of KRW Consulting, Lakewood, said, “The current thinking in the industry is that government can exercise flow control (meaning the county could hold a monopoly on where trash is disposed) if it is a government-operated facility.
“But that’s a little bit murky at the present time,” he said. “If you do not own and operate the facility, it’s very murky.”
“This county in the last 30 years has not wanted to compete with private enterprise,” pointed out DiCola, who had also reminded commissioners that by law, government is not obligated to supply trash-disposal facilities.
Commissioner James Newberry contended that although trash management is not mandated, it may still be government’s responsibility.
In a scenario in which the county no longer would provide waste disposal, county staff members had suggested that the Hot Sulphur and/or Kremmling sites should still remain on the back burner with proper permitting.
Regardless of what scenario commissioners choose, costs of trash service “will go up” for all Grand County residents, stressed the County Manger Lurline Underbrink Curran.
Meanwhile, the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs has filed an appeal to the county’s assessment that a transfer station is a use by right in the county business zone, the zone encompassing the location of the county’s proposed transfer station there.
The appeal is scheduled to come before the county board of adjustments at 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 20.
The town is pursuing the appeal regardless what trash-disposal option the county decides, said Hot Sulphur’s Attorney David Michel after the meeting.
Even if Grand County decides to get out of trash management, it could still conceivably sell the Hot Sulphur land to a private company for a new transfer station site, he said. In such a case, community members would want county oversight through a review and permitting process.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.