Legislation may halt progress of landfill closure

Work continues on the new transfer station at the Sundance Landfill. City officials say the new facility could be operational this fall but a lack of available funds could mean postponing the landfill closure and plans to haul area garbage out of town. (Jeff Moberg photo)

By Sarah Pridgeon

Funding cuts at the Legislature may scupper the city’s efforts to complete the mandatory closure of Sundance’s landfill, says Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz. Almost two thirds of the $45 million set aside for landfill closure has been stripped from the fund – money that would have been used to help close landfill sites across the state.

“I feel like we’re the poster child for small towns,” says Lenz. “We’ve done everything they’ve asked to close the landfill but, without that money, we will probably have to throw our hands up. We don’t know what to do.”

The city has secured the necessary funding to complete its transfer station with a Mineral Royalty Grant for $208,000 and a Joint Powers Loan to match, both granted by the State Lands and Investments Board on January 17. Work will be completed on the station by the end of the summer.

“We could transfer by fall, but we will keep using the landfill while it’s there,” Lenz adds.

Closing the landfill site, however, is an expensive business, requiring $100,000 just for the initial permit. $45 million had been set aside to provide 75 percent reimbursement for landfill closure but, with only $15 million remaining to be shared between the 300 landfill sites around the state, the chances of Sundance receiving a share are greatly diminished.

“There’s a priority list and we were at number 26, although we hope to be moved up the list because we’re so far along on the process,” explains Lenz. “That’s pretty high, but you need to be right at the top because that’s all the money they have.”

House Bills 66 and 65, if passed, could alleviate the $100,000 fee by introducing a “General Permit for Small Communities” created by the Department of Environmental Quality. How the remaining money in the landfill budget will be distributed, however, remains undecided.

“They haven’t even made the rules for that yet – DEQ will make them, so we don’t know when the money will be made available to the communities to use,” Lenz continues.

Lenz, along with Public Works Director Larry Schommer, testified at a July hearing of the Joint Minerals Commission in support of the fund, explaining how difficult it is for small towns to fund such an expensive operation.

“We’re mandated to shut down the landfill, it must be closed by September 2014,” she says. “DEQ is trying to pass the general design permit so we wouldn’t have to come up with the $100,000 for the permit but, if you have any other suggestions, we would urge you to contact your legislators with them.”