New transfer station poised for prairie

County closing in on regional landfill project near Council

As Idaho County closes in on having a new place to send solid waste, the county’s solid waste contractor is close to signing off on a new transfer station location on the Camas Prairie.

With the county commission’s pursuit of a joint landfill near Council continuing, Robert Simmons of Simmons Sanitation informed the Idaho County Commission on Jan. 10 that he is “really close on property” for a new transfer station. “I’m hoping we’re going to get that taken care of within this month, so then we can start the pre-permit process,” Simmons said.

In the meantime, the tonnage Simmons handles has grown a bit in the Clearwater Valley, where county residents are served by Simmons’ existing transfer station, and which has already undergone dumpster site consolidation.

The tonnage entering Camas Prairie dumpsters has grown each of the past several years, which has driven solid waste disposal costs higher, which Simmons and the commissioners both see as a prime reason to tighten control over what has long been an open-dumpster system.

“Salmon River and Elk City, they’re not going to drive all the way to a transfer station,” Simmons said. “In the Grangeville area and Cottonwood, I think we could gain a lot of control with a transfer station.”

The commission has also discussed fencing in some sites, and Simmons said he received only one complaint when the Ferdinand dumpster site was fenced in two months ago.

“The council there likes it, most everybody likes it,” he said.

Controlling high-cost waste – such as appliances and tires – continues to be a high priority for both Simmons and the county.

Simmons noted weather has contributed to higher costs so far this winter, as dumpster sites have required plowing and garbage has been getting wet in unlidded dumpsters. That has resulted in the company “shipping a lot of water weight” and then having to free garbage frozen inside trailers at the destination landfill in Missoula. He said his company has run a pilot project testing lidded dumpsters and may deploy more lidded dumpsters in the future.

Simmons also noted the cold has presented challenges for his drivers, as when one recently “was out there working in 20 below at Dixie.”

Earlier during the Jan. 9 commission meeting, chairman Skip Brandt told Larry Allen of Mt. Idaho that the county could not exempt Allen’s backwoods cabins from solid waste fees without fouling the existing system’s fiscal soundness. The board has granted few, if any, solid waste fee exemptions since 2014.

Allen told the commission the policy is unfair to him. Allen said he does not allow others to use his cabins and that when he uses his cabins, he brings the garbage back to his house for disposal – so he should have to pay only one fee. Brandt said that while some residents may not rent out cabins to others, the county lacks the resources to police which cabins produce garbage and which do not.

Commissioner Mark Frei pointed out a potential unfairness that happens when city garbage is transferred to county dumpsters. He noted that despite the costs and other downsides that come with having an open dumpster system, “people do like the convenience.”

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