Municipalities considering joint powers board solution
By Sarah Pridgeon
At a Government Issues meeting attended by representatives from all four municipalities last week, the concept of a countywide solution for the landfill crisis gathered further momentum.
Representatives from the cities of Hulett, Moorcroft, Pine Haven and Sundance each agreed to initiate council discussions and return in one month’s time with confirmation of whether their respective municipality is prepared to consider a resolution of support for a joint powers board to take charge of garbage across the county.
The board would use proceeds from garbage fees towards a grant match to build a lined landfill in Moorcroft. This would then be accessible to community members from every municipality that contributed to the project.
“We had a good discussion about moving forward with the joint powers board and everyone seemed very positive about it,” says Kathy Lenz, Sundance Clerk Treasurer.
After hearing more detailed information, the Town of Hulett feels more “optimistic” about the idea of a joining its neighbors, says Clerk Treasurer Melissa Bears.
“It was an excellent meeting. The information provided was more detailed than what we had before,” says Bears, explaining that more solid figures are now available and funding options have been discussed.
Among the attendees at Thursday’s meeting were Representative Tyler Lindholm; Mayor Paul Brooks and Lenz of Sundance; Heath Turbiville, HDR Engineering, and Council Member Owen Mathews of Moorcroft; Mayor Larry Suchor and Councilman John Henle of Pine Haven; and Clerk Treasurer Melissa Bears and Council Members Melissa Williams and Connie Hippen from Hulett.
During the meeting, knowledge was shared regarding how the joint powers board would work and the process moving forward. Certain misconceptions were cleared up that had proven to be sticking points.
For example, the joint powers board will not be responsible for the current landfills in Sundance, Moorcroft and Hulett. Communities around the state are being asked to close their unlined landfills, a preventative measure taken through the Department of Environmental Quality when it was discovered that a significant number of them are leaking.
Each community will therefore not be expected to bear the burden of the other municipalities’ closure costs.
“Moving forward, we’ll all probably have to commit to whatever the fees are to close our future landfill that we’re all trying to build,” says Lenz.
“But Sundance won’t take on the cost of Moorcroft’s old one and Moorcroft won’t take on the cost of Hulett’s old one.”
Having already taken a loan and raised rates to close its own landfill, Hulett had been reluctant to come to the table on the basis that the small town would have difficulty contributing to closure costs for the larger towns. Thursday’s meeting, says Bears, cleared up this issue.
“It’s going to raise the rates, there’s no doubt, but it sounds more like it’s going to be manageable,” she says.
“Hulett asked for more information and Owen Mathews said he would come and give a presentation to the entire council.”
The only entity whose support of the joint powers board solution is still in question is the County Commissioners, who were not present at the meeting. If the county chooses to also opt in, says Lenz, every citizen of the county would be served by the joint powers board, which is the overriding goal of the project.
“Our goal is that we all work together and are able to take everybody’s garbage,” she says.
“We want this to be a team effort to take care of the whole county.”
The intention of the joint powers to board is to ensure that the county maintains control over its own garbage, explains Lenz. While it would be possible to haul garbage elsewhere, such as to Belle Fourche or Rapid City, the municipalities would be forced to set and then change resident garbage fees according to the prices charged by those entities.
“It would be so nice for Crook County to be in charge of our own destiny with our garbage,” she says.
“If we had our own landfill, we would have control over it.”
The municipalities also believe that being “in locked step” will increase the chances of securing funding for the project, says Lenz, as most grant-offering bodies like to see government entities come together and the joint powers board has the potential to solve the garbage issue across the northeast corner of the state, if Weston County decides to opt in. Available sources could include Mineral Royalties Grants and the Wyoming Business Council, says Lenz.
The group could also approach the legislature to address this “third leg” of the landfill closure issue, she adds. Grants have been made available to close landfills and build transfer stations, but not to secure a new destination for a municipality’s garbage.
The next Government Issues meeting is expected to take place in July in Moorcroft.