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County to exit landfill group as plan found not ‘cost-effective’

'We followed that lead to the ground, but it just didn’t work'

Idaho County Courthouse

Photo by David Rauzi
Idaho County Courthouse

— Among the Idaho County Commission’s top priorities, solid waste system reform has long loomed large, but plans for a five-county joint landfill aren’t moving forward, and Idaho County is withdrawing from the group that has spent more than 19 months planning for a regional dump southwest of Council.

“We followed that lead to the ground, but it just didn’t work,” commissioner Denis Duman said Tuesday, Jan. 2. “We’re working on it. It’s not a visible project taking in waste or cutting costs, but we didn’t get the county into something that was going to be problematic.”


Contributed photo

Denis Duman


Contributed photo

Mark Frei

The partners to a 2016 joint powers agreement under which Idaho, Adams, Clearwater, Lewis and Valley counties imagined going together on a $1.3 million garbage dump may soon go their separate ways.

In September, the regional landfill planning group met with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding site certification and the steps involved with moving from certification to design to operation, during which a DEQ representative told the group that process could take another two years or more to complete. (Adams County already operates a landfill at the same site, known as the Goodrich Landfill site.)

The Adams County Record first reported, on Dec. 20, that plans for the regional landfill appear to be over. Commissioner Denis Duman told the Free Press Wednesday, Dec. 27, the plan appears not to be financially sound.

“There just isn’t enough tonnage to make it cost-effective,” Duman said, noting that Clearwater County may find the status quo hauling its own tonnage west remains a better deal, and noting that Valley County may prefer facilities to the south, such as the Clay Peak Landfill in Payette.

The status quo in Idaho and Lewis counties – both of which are served by Simmons Sanitation – is central collection in Kamiah and hauling solid waste to a dump outside Missoula, Mont.

In August 2016, the Free Press reported Idaho County’s estimated share of the $1.3 million cost for new digs at the Goodrich Landfill site could have been $260,000 to $650,000, with the low end assuming an equal five-way split and the high end of the range calculated based on Idaho County’s portion, 40 tons per day, amounting to half the daily total.

The county is still anticipating another much-discussed solid waste system reform: Simmons’ development of a new transfer station to centralize collection of Camas Prairie garbage.

“I’ve been waiting for Simmons to make a move,” commissioner Mark Frei said during the commission meeting Jan. 2, “because if he makes a move, it saves the county taxpayers a lot of money. … I need to get back in touch with Robert [Simmons] after these holidays to find out where he is with that. I had promised the recyclers that if something didn’t happen by this winter – if Robert didn’t have a place he would start breaking ground on – the county was going to have to look at doing something.”

Frei said Simmons had been negotiating for a site within the Grangeville Highway District, but an issue over whether the road at the location could sustain the traffic was raised. (The commission has not yet disclosed the location.)

Visible changes to the county’s solid waste system in 2017 included placement of an additional dumpster each at the Fairview, Lamb Grade, and Tolo Lake sites, where bins had often been seen full-to-overflowing during 2017.

Asked what other priorities are in view for the coming year, Frei said he intends to complete a rewrite of the county’s subdivision ordinance and commission chairman Skip Brandt said the board would like to move the drivers’ licensing shop, currently located in the courthouse basement, to the first floor. (The board also received word during the Jan. 2 meeting that the courthouse elevator repair is complete.)


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