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TRANSCRIPT: How Frei frames the solid waste issue

At the March 15 Idaho County Commission meeting, commissioner Mark Frei presented the county's solid waste situation as follows.


The current situation is that we have open dumpsters in various locations. The convenience of that is very convenient. So in terms of convenience, we ought to look at not changing anything, unless there’s real reasons to change it. As I see it, the current situation has some major disadvantages, which are why I proposed changes in the first place.

One, we don’t know where the tonnage is coming from. We don’t know if it’s from individual households, we don’t know if it’s from businesses, agribusinesses, city residents, city businesses, because nobody is there to monitor it.

That creates a second problem. The second problem is, when we don’t know where the tonnage comes from, then we have a fee structure that’s not very closely related to usage. … Our fee structure is disconnected from actual use.

Number three. All kinds of garbage go into the open dumpster, so all kinds of garbage get mixed up. Because of that you have to treat it as the worst kind of garbage that’s potentially in there. There are kinds of garbage we can be treating cheaper than the worst kind of garbage, but we can’t do that when we have an open dumpster situation.

Another one is that the recycling program is not an ordinary part of the solid waste system. Certainly we have recycling, we have a volunteer group that does recycling, but it’s not part of the ordinary aspect of solid waste management in the county.

Another disadvantage that I see in the current situation is that it’s not very environmentally friendly. The dumpster sites are an eyesore. They blow out. I’d hate to have one of my agricultural fields next to a dumpster because trash is always blowing into the field. They have to spend a lot of time cleaning up.

Another disadvantage is that it’s extremely difficult to control cost. As tonnage goes up, it’s difficult to equalize that by fair revenue. We have a kind of contract that’s not related to a per-ton fee. It would be advantageous for the county to have a contract that’s per-ton. Contractor comes in and says ‘I can do your county garbage for $5 per ton.’ And the other contractor says ‘I can do it for $4 a ton.’ It would make the contracts neater and fairer.

Those are significant enough disadvantages to say we need a different situation. So I proposed the idea to consolidate the sites into a mega-site, that’s manned, so we can survey to some extent where the tonnage is coming from. … Let’s say we have a solid waste depot that’s manned that’s open for a small amount of garbage 24/7, that has an area we call a Z-wall where you can back up big loads, and you have separation there. So you have brush in one place, construction demolition, metal, tires, a place for appliances, so we can get the streams separate. So we can handle those things that are cheaper more cheaply than those things that are more expensive. In order to do that, we’ve got to bring it into one central area that would be manned. There would be part that would be 24/7 that wouldn’t necessarily be manned, but you’d create it in such a way that you’re not going to back up pickup loads into that area. You create it so that people have to walk in with their loads of household garbage. People would take their mega-stuff to the Z-wall side of it.

Where you put that is a challenge because you have to balance two things. You have to balance convenience and yet not near anybody who doesn’t want it. A more industrial location away from people, and there’s a lot of places you can choose that are away from people, but then you have the problem of, well, it’s not convenient. The idea of putting it somewhere near Grangeville and somewhere near Cottonwood is that people come here whether they live out in the country, for their groceries and to do their business anyway. So if it’s located near town, they come drop their garbage off and do their business and they’re not making a separate trip.

It’s not a landfill. The solid waste depot, or the mega-dumpster site is not a landfill and it’s not intended to morph into a landfill. The discussion is on-going and working this idea out is on-going. We are considering the possibility of doing a regional landfill in Adams County, outside of the town of Council. Five counties would go in. We’re in the process of working that out. If it comes to fruition as it’s planned right now, it would save us money – a substantial amount of money – especially after we pay it off in five years. After the initial investment of all five counties, the tipping fees will recover the cost of that initial investment and then we’re sailing on a lot of savings. If that landfill goes through, that has some ramifications to the solid waste depot/mega-dumpster site idea. For example, Simmons Sanitation is throwing around the idea that if this regional landfill goes through they would look at building a transfer station up here, probably near Grangeville. If that happens there’s no reason to duplicate sites with the mega-site and a transfer station. The transfer station would simply become the mega-site near Grangeville and we’d probably still try to do something on the Cottonwood side.

That’s the general plan.

I wanted to give that framework and now we want to hear from you.


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