Solid waste fees stable as landfill talks continue

— The solid waste system is more solid financially this year than it was last year, and the Idaho County Commission is working to control a key cost – the tipping fee landfill operators assess in exchange for accepting trash.

If a new landfill is established near Council – as Idaho, Adams, Valley, Clearwater and Lewis counties are working to do – the difference for the county could be as much as $6.30 per ton to dispose of Idaho County’s 40 tons per day, or about a $90,000 per year difference.

Prospects for establishing a five-county joint landfill near Council are improving, Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt told the board Sept. 13. Adams County is moving forward with obtaining a permit the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality requires, which involves updating Adams County’s existing Goodrich Landfill operating plan.

While that key hurdle remains out of the joint landfill group’s control, the five participating counties are continuing to plan for a new landfill. It would receive approximately 80 tons of solid waste per day. While the joint landfill group hasn’t yet determined how to portion the costs among the counties, one of the scenarios detailed in the Aug. 17 Free Press would have Idaho County paying a cost-share proportionate to the tonnage to be sent, meaning the county could have to pay $650,000 of the $1.3 million cost – if and when the joint powers group goes ahead with the new landfill.

Idaho County presently delivers that 40 tons of waste per day to Missoula at a cost of $26.36 per ton in addition to transportation. It would be about the same distance to send it instead to Council, where the five-party landfill would charge smaller fees – about $20.05 per ton – under an operation plan detailed in the Aug. 17 Free Press.

The Free Press has previously published 10 articles on the commission’s recent solid waste reform effort, starting in December 2014, when the commission stopped granting solid waste fee exemptions to agricultural property owners.

The changes the commission has made, which have included dumpster consolidation, have not solved every problem, as Mt. Idaho resident John Warford told the board Tuesday, Sept. 20. Warford said the Fairview dumpsters are still frequently jammed full. He spoke to the commissioners mainly about traffic changes he said have followed from solid waste system changes.

“Traffic on Poor Farm Road quadrupled, at least,” Warford said; he noted that he will be taking a request for new speed limit signage to the Grangeville Highway District.

The solid waste system changes have put the system on firmer financial ground. On Sept. 13, assessor Jamie Zehner asked the board whether his department should anticipate any changes to the solid waste fee amount, in light of what had been a pattern of rising costs and fees falling short of covering the solid waste system costs. The solid waste fund had run $327,000 into the red in 2007, and, Zehner said Sept. 13, has run $368,000 in the black this year.

In 2015, the county’s solid waste fees had fallen $75,000 short of covering the system’s costs, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the remainder. With the solid waste system now operating within what is covered by the fees, Brandt said Sept. 13, “there’s no need” for the solid waste fees to change.

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