Calculating the garbage options

By Sarah Pridgeon

Still seeking answers to the garbage issue as the new year dawns, the Sundance City Council last week discussed possibilities for when the Moorcroft landfill closes its doors on July 1. With so many elements to consider, they mused, fitting them together in the best way for the community will be something of a jigsaw.

Public Works Director Mac Erickson discussed the research he has done so far, telling the council that the upshot appears to be that it would cost around $700 per month more for the city to privatize garbage hauling versus continuing to handle it internally. This would not involve selling anything and works on the assumption that county people would still be able to use Sundance’s transfer station, he explained, but does not seem to be an adequate cost-cutting measure to be worthwhile.

“It costs the same, but where are the savings at?” he said.

Mayor Paul Brooks commented that this scenario would not remove a number of the city’s responsibilities.

“We’ve got to keep the transfer station open, we still have the expense of maintaining it,” he said, noting also that it would continue to be the city’s task to do the billing and turn off the water if a bill goes unpaid.

The infrastructure that the city has in operation now would still be there, Erickson agreed, and the city would likely continue to pick up garbage after events such as Rally and collect yard waste.

Brooks asked rhetorically whether that would mean outsourcing the truck for picking up garbage. Erickson responded that, according to his research, there are three potential avenues should the city choose to pursue privatization.

In the first, he said, the private company would pick up the garbage and direct haul it to Gillette; in the second, the private company would rent the transfer station and the city would collect garbage and deliver it to be hauled; in the third, the private company would collect, use the transfer station and then haul the garbage to Gillette.

The best deal appears to be the first, Erickson said. However, Brooks pointed out that this would not remove the city’s obligation to run the transfer station and also questioned whether the costs quoted today would still be valid in the future.

“If we get a great deal, is that deal still going to be there in three years or will we be in a situation where they have us over a barrel?” he asked.

Another part of the jigsaw being the recycling, the council discussed whether this should be included in plans for the future and in what form.

“I think the city could handle the recycling ourselves – the hard part is getting rid of it,” said the mayor.

At the moment, the city outsources recycling to a private contractor and does not have the infrastructure that would be necessary to take it on in-house, such as a baler and a rear-loading truck. The monthly stipend paid by each household could potentially be a cushion that went towards these costs, however, said Brooks.

Alternatively, the city could look at installing a central drop-off point for recycling, but this would require video surveillance, policing and fines for contaminating the waste with non-recyclables. Erickson suggested that the city should think hard about at least continuing it for the businesses that generate a lot of cardboard, but mentioned that no destination for recycling will take it loose and therefore the city would require a baler.

As the city can continue hauling to Moorcroft until the end of June, Erickson volunteered to continue looking for figures on such things as blending recycling into the picture to find the best overall solution for the city. Brooks also noted that there is support among the council for continuing to take county garbage if it makes sense financially.

“We’re kind of coming down to crunch time, but we still have a little time to work on this,” Brooks said, appealing to the community for suggestions. The council and staff have beaten the question around among themselves enough that few new ideas are now being raised, he said, and would welcome new thoughts from residents.