Landfill rep pledges to hold line on fees

by nathan oster

Carl Olson, a representative of the Big Horn County Solid Waste Board, got a short and sweet answer when he put the question of what he could do to help members of the Greybull Town Council on Monday night.

“I think we all just want to know, where are the rates headed?” said Councilman Clay Collingwood.

What followed was a lengthy discussion that covered all things sanitation and involved not only Olson, but also Craig McOmie of the Department of Environmental Quality and Jerry Ewen, chairman of the Big Horn County Commission.

With the county landfills already collecting $95 per ton of trash from the towns, leaders in Basin and Greybull have been exploring their options in recent months, including the idea of setting up a transfer station in their own communities and taking their trash to other regional landfills which charge significantly less than Big Horn County.

While it would be expensive to set up and run their own transfer stations, Billings charges a tipping fee of $26.85 per ton for out-of-state garbage.

“That’s a big difference,” said Collingwood.

In response to his original question, Olson assured Collingwood that the landfill rates “aren’t going to be going up. They are going to stay where they are. We are hoping that within the next three or four years, we can (lower our rates) because our overhead is going to go down.”

The problem, said Olson, is that the county is on the hook for debt incurred to date, as well as costs associated with moving away from the landfill concept and toward the transfer station model on both the north and south ends of the county.

Olson, McOmie and Ewen all emphasized that if Greybull or Basin go their own way and stop taking their trash to the landfill, all of the residents of the county — including those living in Greybull and Basin — would be responsible. “We are all Big Horn County residents,” said Olson.

When asked why the county moved toward transfer stations, Olson said the former mayors of Basin and Greybull were supportive. “They wanted to quit burying trash,” said Olson. “We started moving in that direction.” Olson said he still believes “it’s the way to go,” but that the key is to find an inexpensive place to dump it. A large, regional landfill is likely the answer.

Olson asked the towns to give the landfill board a chance to work everything out.

Both McOmie and Ewen echoed Olson, saying it would be detrimental if either Basin or Greybull got their own transfer stations and quit using the landfill.

In other business:

  • Kitty Gipson addressed the council about the higher utility rates that she is being charged for a home in Greybull with an inactive water tap. Earlier this year, the town approved a series of rate increases. Gipson said the tap hasn’t been used since 2004 and that it’s unfair to ask senior citizens to pay such steep increases. Council members directed staff to look into her bill and what could be done.
  • Public Works Director Dalen Davis acknowledged that there have been issues getting on the same schedule with the people who run the recycling facility in Powell. The town has recycling trailers at three different locations around town.
  • Police Chief Bill Brenner said the Days of ’49 went well and that the department is in the process of getting another K-9.
  • The council agreed to allow First Presbyterian Church to utilize the parking lot across the street from Town Hall for a special event that will include a chuck wagon dinner.
  • Administrator Paul Thur asked council members whether they were OK with people using metal detectors on town property, including the park. They said that they had no problem with it.
  • The council agreed to set the speed limit for the roads in the new business park on Greybull River Road at 20 mph.

The council hit a snag, however, over whether the town should pay for electrical power to be extended to all of the lots in the business park. Councilman Scott Mattis said the town has done its part to make it a friendly deal for the business owners by discounting the price of the land and that it should fall upon the individual business owners to pay for the electrical connection. Councilman Clay Collingwood disagreed, saying that the town should pay for it. The council did not make a decision, choosing to conduct more research on the power and water assessments.

  • The council also tabled a decision on a request from Big Horn County School District No. 3 to pay a $1,600 bill for services rendered by CTA Architects Engineers. The school district hired CTA to provide another analysis of what will cost to build, operate and maintain an outdoor swimming pool in Greybull. Council members will seek more information on the request from Supt. Barry Bryant.
  • A second reading of an ordinance that will make it legal for town residents to own chickens was passed on second reading. A third and final reading is scheduled in July.
  • The council also moved closer to creating an agricultural zoning district, approving the proposed language on second reading. Still to be decided is the number of livestock that will be permitted.

The town had been considering setting as a limit one head of cattle (beef or dairy) on every 10 acres of land. Bob Ferri, executive vice president and petroleum engineer for New Era, suggested that such a limitation could negatively impact the sale of the land. He said something along the lines of one head for every two acres of land would be more appropriate. “There are ranchers outside of town that feed five times that many right outside their house,” said Ferri.

Council members were quick to point out they do so on county land, where the regulations are are less restrictive. While willing to discuss a compromise, at least two — Councilmen Clay Collingwood and Marvin Hunt — said they wouldn’t support the one-to-two ratio proposed by Ferri.